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Simon says: Automate my writing

Who hasn’t wished for a tool that translates thoughts directly to paper and transforms them into an eloquent blog post, ready to be published? Those brain-computer interfaces may not be available just yet, but companies are making great strides developing reliable writing assistants to speed up your work. 


A robot proofreading a document


Last year, Microsoft rolled out the Copilot AI assistant for Office 365 and we took the time to explore its features while drafting this blog post. As the name implies, Copilot helps writers navigate their texts. It provides suggestions, feedback and corrections and can create summaries and even help us overcome the horror of staring at a blank page by creating a first draft we can build on. 


For example, during our quarterly info session this week, our three newest colleagues were asked to introduce themselves. If they didn’t know where to begin, they could ask Copilot “how to write a presentation to introduce myself to my new colleagues”:

Introducing yourself to new colleagues can be a daunting task, but it's an excellent opportunity to make a great first impression. Here are some tips to help you write a presentation that will help you introduce yourself to new colleagues:
1. Start with a brief introduction: Begin by introducing yourself and providing some background information about your education, work experience, and interests. Keep it short and sweet, and avoid going into too much detail.
2. Highlight your skills and accomplishments: Share some of your most significant achievements and the skills that you bring to the table. This will help your colleagues understand what you can contribute to the team.
3. Explain your role: Describe your role in the company and what you will be doing. This will help your colleagues understand how you fit into the organization.
[...]

Our colleague Anne-Lynn, who’s a big fan of poetry, could have asked for it in the form of a poem. Admittedly, the rhyme suggestions need some work:

Hello, my name is [Your Name],
I'm excited to be here, it's not just a game.
I'm a [Your Profession], with a passion for [Your Interest],
I'm looking forward to working with you, it's what I do best.

Blog posts, sonnets, or murder mysteries, the creative potential for prompts is limitless. But it’s also a valuable asset in more predictable contexts, such as technical writing. These contexts rely on stricter formats with predictable and easy-to-read structures. With that in mind, you can ask Copilot to apply those structures to your text, rewriting them as a list or an instruction. If you use the assistant in an Edge browser, you ask the same for the webpage or PDF you have open. 


For example, we went to the wiki page on technical writing and asked Copilot to rewrite it in the form of an instruction. While the source text is mainly a dry explanation of the history and the tools of the profession, Copilot dutifully came back to me with a basic five-step process on how to write technical content. Then we tried again but asked Copilot to write it for an audience of kids, so it reproduced the information in a simplified language:

How to Write About Things That Are hard to Understand
Sometimes you need to write about things that are hard to understand, like how machines work, or what chemicals do, or why the sky is blue. These things are called technical topics.
Technical topics are usually written for people who know a lot about them, like scientists or engineers. But sometimes you need to write for people who don't know much about them, like kids or beginners. This is called technical writing.
Technical writing is a way of writing that helps people learn new things or do new things. Technical writing can be fun and creative, but it can also be challenging. You need to make sure that your writing is clear, accurate, and easy to follow. Here are some tips to help you write good technical writing:
- Know your audience. Think about who will read your writing and what they need to know. Try to use words and examples that they can understand and relate to.
[...]

We did the same test in English and in Dutch and found out it took more careful wording of prompts to receive the same results in Dutch.


We are not all bound by Copilot, of course. For those of us who use Oxygen XML, we are supported by the AI Positron Assistant. It helpfully provides a list of pre-defined prompts to help us itemize, summarize, or improve the readability of our text at the press of a button. Additionally, we can experiment with our own prompts and even record an AI action sequence into a routine.

The options offered by the AI Positron Assistant

With so many tools on the market, it is a great time to start experimenting to find out what best suits your writing style and process.


So automation can help you write faster. But can it help you write better? Keep an eye on this blog to find out soon!

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