After seeing a little demonstration of ChatGPT, I asked it to create an article for me on grammar. I can’t say what it created was a success.
A co-worker of mine and I discussed ChatGPT and what it can and can’t do. We both agree that while there are some tasks the artificial intelligence platform can probably handle, there are others you couldn’t trust it with.
Recently, I gave you my take on whether bloggers should use programs like ChatGPT to craft posts. I also wrote about some potentially reasonable uses I see for AI in blogging.
But one of the most important things bloggers here from the so-called blogging “experts” out there is about authenticity. We should be true to ourselves and our audiences at all costs, they say. Well, part of that requires that we be honest if we’re going to rely on artificial intelligence to craft a post.
After all, unless we’re going to change the byline to reflect that a machine composed an article, we’re putting our name on something we didn’t write. That seems dishonest to me. A journalist should certainly never put his name on an article in which he made no editorial contribution. A copy-and-paste of an article written by ChatGPT (or any similar platform) should follow the same standard in blogging.
Curiosity inspires a little test
Still, I wanted to see what would happen if I asked ChatGPT to write an article for me. I wanted to get a feel for how well it writes. I also wanted to know how accurate the content might be.
Since grammar is my most popular topic here at Patrick’s Place, I asked for an article on that topic. My request was very simple: I wanted to give it as much flexibility as I could and see what happened. So I gave it this simple instruction:
Write me an article about common grammar mistakes.
It immediately began typing up an article, starting with this title:
10 Common Grammar Mistakes You Should Avoid
Well, that’s interesting. I didn’t specify that it type a “listicle,” but since they can be popular for readers who like to scan, a listicle generally isn’t a bad idea.
But it didn’t take long to spot a major problem. Unfortunately for the test, there was an error in the very first listing. I’ll post what it wrote for mistake #1:
Subject-Verb Agreement: One of the most prevalent grammar errors occurs when the subject and verb do not agree in number. For example, saying “The book was written by a group of authors” instead of “The book were written by a group of authors” is incorrect. Make sure your subject and verb align in singular or plural form.
I hope you spotted the mistake. It reversed what would be the “right” and “wrong” sentences.
Saying “The book was written by a group of authors” is the correct choice. Replacing was with were is precisely what would render the sentence incorrect.
In the example sentences, book is the subject of the sentence. As a singular noun, book requires a singular verb. In this case, was is the correct choice. But was is the example it claims is incorrect.
It appeared it tried to classify authors as the subject, which, as a plural would require a plural verb. But authors is the object of the proposition of. It couldn’t possibly be mistaken as the subject of the sentence.
Second ‘mistake’ wasn’t a mistake
I read through the other nine parts and discovered what appeared to be a second problem. This one might even be more glaring than the previous one. For the tenth common mistake, here’s what it wrote:
Incorrect Use of Prepositions: Prepositions are words that indicate relationships between other words in a sentence. Common errors include using the wrong preposition or omitting them altogether. For instance, saying
That’s where it stopped. In mid-sentence. I mentioned this to my co-worker the next morning and he said, “Oh, it probably just ran out of characters. You can type ‘continue’ and it’ll give you the rest.”
I didn’t realize there was a character limit that would stop output cold without any indication that a “continue” instruction was necessary. But I went back and entered that command. It then gave me the rest of that item:
“Please hand me the book on the table” instead of “Please hand me the book at the table.” Be attentive to the correct prepositions to ensure accurate expression of location, time, or direction.
That’s an interesting choice, but I doubt if I’d ever come up with that example to illustrate “incorrect use of prepositions.” If I were to choose that as one of my 10 common grammar mistakes, I’d probably give examples like, “Where is he at?” as what not to do with a preposition.
One mistake out of nine: Still a 90% grade
Do you think I’m being too picky? I don’t.
Granted, this was an easy mistake to catch and correct if I were going to run this as an article here.
But that’s also the whole point: artificial intelligence shouldn’t be making a mistake that obvious if it’s going to try to act as an authority figure on grammar errors.
The even bigger lesson here is why no one would rely on artificial intelligence to do their work for them. If a blogger had asked ChatGPT to create this article for them and then posted it as is, the mistake might have damaged their credibility.
I can see how a blogger might be having a bad day and might need a last-minute replacement for a post. I can also see how there might be temptation to let the machine write a post — in an emergency. But given this example, I can also see how taking that output and just copying and pasting with no effort to proofread or fact-check could be a disaster.
As I’ve said before, artificial intelligence may well have a place in parts of the blogging process.
But a blogger needs to make sure he or she is always doing the actual work of blogging. There’s too much credibility to lose if they allow mistakes like that to get through.