I used to think plagiarism was my worst thing to deal with as an editor. That is only sort of true now. Now the biggest headache has become figuring out who has used AI to do their writing and to what extent. Often that is even less easy than it even sounds.
While there are websites and software tools that will give you an idea of whether AI has been used, it isn’t completely reliable and no one wants to lose an author who is accidentally dinged because they write in a way that seems like it might have been AI generated. When reviewing a new article for AI use, there are lots of things we look for, but there are a few things that stand out:
- Patterns that are way too list heavy. AI seems to like to put out bulleted lists of items at times where paragraphs seem more natural for writers.
- Many sections with only one paragraph. Another pattern that stands out is very balanced paragraph structures. Not every topic requires the same amount of text, so sections typically will be of different lengths and sizes.
- Plagiarisms, typically shorter copied text. When I find a lot of innocuous phrases that match too many other documents on the internet, I definitely start getting concerned. This is particularly odd when it is taken from articles that are about the same topic, but don’t contain all (or any) technical content from the article.
- Odd tangents that don’t make complete sense. AI doesn’t actually know what it is talking about. If you also don’t know what you are talking about, you can’t discern what is right and wrong with the output.
- Too much marketing language. I have nothing against marketing. I have been tangentially a part of marketing for many years as a programmer. But when an article about how to use a technology starts sounding like the marketing group has crafted it, that can easily mean that it was lifted from a source where that is the case.
Looking for these anomalies is a large part of the editing process, and other than directly copied text, definitely not a simple thing to find in every case, even using tools.
Today we are unveiling our new AI policy for Simple Talk (and SQL Server Central, our sister site will have a very similar policy). It states generally what I have covered in this blog. Use AI to assist you, but treat it like any other source. Attribute its use wherever you use it and there won’t be any problem (and if it is, we will work together to make it work.) But we do not accept unattributed AI writing of any kind.
If you as a reader spot a case where you feel confident we missed something that was obviously AI generated, please email email@example.com and we will investigate.
On our Redgate owned websites, we want content that is written by people who have done at least some of the things they are writing about in a professional setting. As a writer, having foundational knowledge in the topics you are writing about is important. It is also necessary as an author to stretch beyond your personal capabilities and learn and experiment with new technologies. AI can be useful to get examples of what you might write, just like any other source. It has one major advantage over searching for a topic on a search engine in that it does the searching for you and basically attempts to write you new reference material. Our authors are welcome to use AI for inspiration just like any webpage. (I would encourage you see if it can answer your questions… sometimes it is very helpful).
A great use of AI is to let it generate a set of test data or even sample code. Give it the structure you want samples for and it can probably create you a set of data to play with in far less time than you manually creating it. This is a wonderful use of the generative AI and with attribution we are happy for authors to use the code as it is generated.
AI is a great writing assistant
We also are also very happy with using AI Assistance, such as those you might find in any modern word processing tool like Microsoft Word. I use Grammarly consistently to make sure I am getting commas and tenses right and you should feel free to as well. Using tools to help you write understandable and correct text is not now, nor will it ever be, and issue for our writers. All we ask is that the finished product is their own work.
The bottom line
AI can be a very useful tool to assist writers by giving them inspiration and assistance writing proper English. It should not be doing their work for them.