Who’s Better at Editing Books: Humans or Robots?

Technology has invaded almost all areas of our lives, and that includes proofreading and editing books too. Plenty of software and applications available online which can fix the work as you write it. So, with the bots picking speed with human language skills, will human editors become obsolete?

The answer is no. If you think the future of editing and proofreading is all about algorithms and automation, you’re overestimating the abilities of bots and undermining the genius of humans. Professionals spend years learning the intricacies of language, scanning hundreds of drafts with a fine-tooth comb and retaining that information on their large human brain. The bots aren’t even close to that level of proficiency, as yet.

But they do have a near unmistakable accuracy for spelling mistakes and pattern recognition. AI can fix minor grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Students can use one of the free or paid versions of online grammar applications and briskly get their essays and term papers. But… 

Can it point out the bias in their findings and conclusion? Can a robot tell you how to improve an argument? The answer is no. As of now, they lack the required level of knowledge to do so. Ditto for literary writing. Authors can use robots to do the clerical work, but can they rely on bots for editorial advice? Hell no!

We aren’t saying that trust only humans with your editing and proofreading work. We are far from perfect when it comes to editing, writing, or existing in general. To err is human, right? The bots aren’t perfect yet either. So, which one to choose?  

Why choose one, when you can rely on both. Let’s delve into why that makes sense.  

Elements of editing: 

It takes an immense amount of time and effort to cultivate a broad set of rules and knowledge to understand layers of editing and set the text right. Also, different documents require different types of editing, which calls for a unique editing approach.

Understand how using both is the best bet to improve your writing:

Sticky sentences  

There are close to around 200 commonly used words (a, an, the, there, etc.) which find a place in all documents, sometimes far too often. If used far too many times, it can make a sentence complicated to read.

Applications can instantly recognize and highlight such sentences so you can fix them for clarity. Some paid versions will also fix it for you.  

Better choice: Bots

Narrative structure 

Authors need an editor to get an expert view of the story, plot, and structure that they are creating. And that’s what you get once an editor goes through your manuscript.  A constructive critique to improve your subject matter and the form of your story, according to its genre and intended audience.

A computer can’t tell if the conflict is stirring enough to inspire the hero to go looking for the lost diamond. It can’t comment about the adequacy of the backstory you’ve given for the protagonist. 

Best choice: Human

Sentence length

Social media has decreased our attention spans. Writers have to be careful about how long their writing stretches. Ease of reading is an important factor for readers to keep reading your stuff. This is especially important for bloggers! 

A human cannot calculate the sentence length distribution of the entire document, but a computer can. Most apps also highlight the sentences that are too long or short to maintain uniformity and also give you a Flesch reading report to tell you’ve performed. 

Better choice: Bots 

Character development

Creating compelling characters for the writer is as intricate a craft, as sculpting stone to a life-sized statue is for the sculptor. The only material you have to do that is words and paper (or a screen). You must draw out their physical traits, background story, emotions, feelings and more to bring them to life.

Computers cannot tell if a character is underdeveloped, taking too much space or outright unnecessary.    

Better choose: Humans

Repetition

While an editor can well recognize a pattern of words and sentences, the bots are faster and better at doing this. Repetition can make the text boring, and difficult to read. Where it is necessary is still a tricky area for the bots, but as long as your document is a simple essay or a fiction manuscript they’ll do the job just fine.   

Better choice: Bots

World-building 

World-building is an important part of creating a fictional world. Especially in science fiction and fantasy writing. Where does the story take place? What is the current political situation there? How’s the geographic setting? All these factors form a part of world-building. We have an entire article dedicated to this topic, check it out

Vividly describing such features is crucial to make the story more immersive for the readers. AI is still busy taking lessons on geography and human imagination and is far away from understanding it. Professional editors have experienced both the real and imaginary worlds. So they can critically analyze how you’ve built yours.

Better choice: Humans

The final judgment 

We remember classics and bestsellers for their timelessness. The meaning, poignancy, and significance they carry stand the test of time. People like them for the use of language, the unique style, the relatable characters and how it gives them a satisfying reading experience. There’s a lot that goes into making a book that finds universal acceptance. 

It’s a result of the exhaustive efforts of the writer, yes. But writers know and owe it to their editors for making it what it really is. Only human editors can scrutinize the bigger picture and bring the required level of sensitivity to the story.

Better choice: Humans 

So, a little bit of this and a lot of that will ensure the highest quality for your work. The future of writing is safe in human hands, will always be. 

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