3rd July 2015 eloudon


While I was wondering what to write in this blog post, I watched the movie Ex Machina. Maybe you saw it. It’s the one about the beer-swilling genius in a remote American hideout who creates sexy young robots. The robots are efficient killers, but you can’t blame them. They want to be free of their creator. They want to be — people.

Robots are back. They’re back in the movies, back in the headlines, and in the real world, they’re not bloodless young women wielding sharp kitchen knives. They are – amongst other things – writers.

That’s right. ‘Robots’ (computer algorithms that turn data into readable text) now write the news stories and reports that you and I might read. Maybe they’ll soon be writing charity fundraising proposals and letters.

What will robot writing look like in the charity sector? Here’s an example. It’s a paragraph describing a paid apprenticeship programme at a top arts organisation:

“This scheme is highly valued by young artists as well as by the Company and we are keen to ensure its continuation for years to come. Some talented young artists would not have the chance to pursue a career as professional artists without a paid apprenticeship. Although the contemporary arts sector is growing there are not many contemporary companies who have the capacity to offer this type of opportunity.”

It wasn’t, of course, written by a robot. It was written by a warm-hearted, intelligent human being. And it’s not too terrible. It’s just robotic, with long sentences and abstract words. The writer knew it, I knew it, and you know it.

Let’s be honest. We’ve all been guilty of writing like this. One sign of trouble is when paragraphs look like bricks on the page: heavy and rectangular, stacked up in a row. Bricks make walls that block out the light. Robotic writing has the same effect.

How can you add a lighter, human touch, so your reader knows you’re a real person? Sometimes, the best thing to do is chat to a friend. You’ll use plain language that your friend can understand. You’ll let your passion show.

You might then write something like this:

“Professional artists are in high demand. The jobs are out there, but many talented people won’t get them. The reason is simple: there aren’t enough paid apprenticeships that help young artists to launch their careers.

We’re one of the few companies to offer paid apprenticeships. We give young artists a break when they need it the most. We’re proud of the results, and we’re committed to future apprenticeships.”

There are hundreds of other ways to say more or less the same thing. That’s the beauty of writing. If it’s done by humans, not robots, it’s never the same way twice. If it’s done by robots, it sounds like every other tired funding proposal, and the best you can hope for is – a knife in the back.

Let me know what you do to make your writing sound like you, and if you like, I’ll share it in a future blog post. Thanks for reading!




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