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How to Detect AI Writing: 3 Ways to Identify AI Content

Since the public debut of ChatGPT in late 2022, the reality of AI-generated content has materialized. Technology is revolutionizing the way we consume—and create—content.

Some organizations embrace the onset of major changes—AI can generate thousands of words in under a minute. In contrast, others, like Forbes, are drawing a line in the digital sand, insisting on the irreplaceable value of genuine human insight alone. 

Like most things, AI-generated content is a gray area—but it’s also evolving daily. There are undoubtedly ways for AI to enhance and enable content creation while still prioritizing genuine human creativity and innovation. 

Language is a window into the human mind and consciousness, and pieces written by humans are more likely to speak to other humans on a level that genuinely resonates. But, lately, it’s not so easy to discern robot content from human content. 

If you’ve acquainted yourself with ChatGPT, you might be able to spot some of the telltale signs of AI-generated content. But to know how to use AI to make your life a little easier without compromising the content’s humanity score, you have to know the tell-tale signs of AI-generated content.

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Redundancies in information 

Let’s state the basics: For AI to generate content, it needs to be prompted. The primary AI writing tool that is used is ChatGPT. You will find that when you input a prompt into ChatGPT, the tool generates blocks of content. The more details included in a prompt, the better. This is because the AI can work with the provided specifications and generate content tailored to your needs. 

It takes a thoughtful prompter to write a prompt in a way that yields a well-formed, cohesive result. Even so, AI is often repetitive. You will find that the prompt is simply restated and regurgitated in a variety of ways, not adding much substance but rather substituting synonyms for like-words. This is not an efficient way to communicate because the information is finite and lacks perspective. When you read something and identify needless repetition, many times to the detriment of the piece, you can assume that AI was relied on or heavily leaned on. This makes it like junk food content. 

Robotic Makeup 

Human written content has variety and is diverse. AI-generated content tends to be staunchly consistent. Sentences rarely fluctuate or vary in length or structure when written by AI. The word choices and tone come across as sterile or simply too polished, in a way that begs the question: did a human write this or was it AI? Writing, in human terms, is all about choices. What punctuation, words, and style will be employed to get a point across? AI doesn’t do this because it is programmed to adhere to a mechanical pattern that uses the alphabet and symbols as a code rather than a live language used to build bridges of understanding. 

It would be silly to throw out the baby with the bathwater and abandon AI. That would be unrealistic and disadvantageous. 

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Emotionless Verbiage

AI mimics human language and thought processes on a logical level. The structure of premises, cause and effect relationships, and so on—and it is an area where AI can appear threatening to humans. While the following statement might seem obvious, it is worth noting: You can tell that something is written by AI when it lacks emotional nuance—what is perceived as sensitivity, perception, and empathy. 

Human language is arranged in characters charged with emotion, tone, and sentiments that resonate on a personal level. It appeals to the heart and the mind. In reading human writing, readers are invited into that writer’s consciousness, and therefore a bond is established. AI is proficient in many aspects but still struggles to replicate the intricacies of human emotion. When you encounter a piece void of authenticity, in which words seem like empty vessels—mere characters without an undertone or backstory—the text was possibly written by AI. 

Pro tip: Use AI for structural guidance. It is great for organizing, making outlines, and spotting any stylistic, spelling, or grammatical errors. Infuse it with emotion—this doesn’t mean drama—by making keen observations, employing literary devices, and considering recent phenomena in culture and world events. 

How to Humanize AI-Generated Content 

As AI-generated content continues to proliferate, you will want to do two things:

  1. Use AI to be more productive, staying ahead
  2. Leverage your understanding of AI to work alongside it, and channel your human traits into work

It will be increasingly important to get into the practice of using AI to be more productive. This doesn’t mean cheating or plagiarizing, which will surely happen as well. It’s not good practice to rely solely on AI, especially because the trained eye will be able to identify telltale patterns of AI writing. It can hurt your and your organization’s credibility if AI usage is not adequately humanized.

Related Reading: How to Detect AI-Written Content and What it Means for Your B2B

Here are some ways to take full advantage of AI while remaining cognizant of its limitations in an ethical, efficient, and evolved way:

Include these components in a prompt:

  • “You are [insert profession, person, perspective].”
  • “Explain [why, how, what, etc] [X, Y, Z].”
  • “Reference this text: [include a reference to use].”
  • “Write in a [intellectual, playful, casual] tone.”
  • Specify word count, structure, etc.

There are endless possibilities as to what you can specify in a prompt, but the above few are good pointers so that the AI is essentially mirroring your desired state. Here’s the thing: AI will generate content, and it will probably sound pretty good. It is so exciting for an essay or article to seemingly magically appear before your eyes, but don’t get too trigger-happy. Whether you can immediately detect it or not, the AI-generated content is loaded with evidence of its source. (And some tools will easily catch if content is AI-generated.)

Heavily edit AI-generated content.

Once AI yields content, you will want to go back through the content with a fine-toothed comb. This is because what appears to be well-written and substantive can be quite surface-level. The upside of using AI is that content is tidily organized and consistent—you don’t need to start from scratch when you use AI to generate content. 

Go through the AI-generated content line by line to rephrase sentences, replace words, and add your personal flare. Let AI serve purely as the foundational builder of content rather than the all-encompassing general contractor. As you parse the content, you’ll likely find inaccuracies that need to be clarified and corrected. Once the content is more humanly phrased and structured, consider adding research and anecdotes that are recent. Remember, 2021 was the cutoff year for ChatGPT’s data. In modern terms, that is quite dated. Lack of relevance and recency will harm the content’s credibility, so be sure to incorporate new information that is not accessible to AI. Do your research and check your sources; those are human advantages. 

Embrace AI as your copilot. 

Using AI in this way will boost your literacy in how AI works, as well as how to work with it, which is the end goal: a robot copilot to simplify everyday tasks. Empathy towards the intended audience and readers will also go a long way. AI can yield a lot of information quickly, but it does not mean that readers are getting what they need. Consider the human touch to be part of the formula for success. 

As more AI-generated content inhabits the internet, it will all meld together in an indiscernible sea of junk food content. Pay close attention to the telltale signs of AI-generated content to avoid common mistakes, namely relying too much on the AI. Remember to infuse content with your insights, perspectives, narrative lens, and relevant research to both leverage and stay ahead of AI.