ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology. The language model can answer questions, write code, design images, and assist you with writing tasks such as composing emails, reports, proposals, and even articles like this one. (I wrote this article myself.)
Some have described its growth as “blasting off like an inaccurate rocket.” Others say its analytics capabilities and ability to automate tasks will fundamentally alter business and writing as we know it.
If business writers understand how to frame information and prompt ChatGPT well, the productivity benefits are incredible. To do this, writers must understand and control the writing process, not let ChatGPT solely drive, but that's a learned skill. ChatGPT lives up to all the hype when there is a well-calibrated and controlled dance between the critical thinking skills of the writer and the automation of ChatGPT.
Unfortunately, without a deep understanding and practice of how to use it well for your business writing, it carries deep risks that outweigh most of the benefits. I've outlined those risks below.
1. Inaccurate or incomplete information
While ChatGPT has been trained on a large amount of data and is constantly learning, it can provide inaccurate or incomplete information that sounds frighteningly confident. Verify any information obtained from ChatGPT with reputable sources.
My colleague prompted ChatGPT to write an outline of a 30-minute presentation on a specific topic. ChatGPT provided an outline that was on point. All topics were relevant to the presentation. However, my colleague (with his discerning brain) suspected the topics couldn’t all be addressed in 30 minutes, so he asked ChatGPT, “Can these topics all be addressed in 30 minutes.”
ChatGPT response: “No.”
ChatGPT provided exactly what he asked for, even though it wouldn’t work.
ChatGPT reflects the biases of the data it was trained on. This means it may be more likely to provide biased or stereotypical responses.
Over-reliance on ChatGPT may lead to a lack of critical thinking or personal research. This is the biggest risk for business writers. The human writer must discern and refine the prompts and the outcomes.
4. Copyright infringement
ChatGPT generates writing that is similar to other writing.
Privacy is a significant concern unless a company has integrated ChatGPT into its own contained ecosystem. All information that anyone who uses ChatGPT is incorporated into its collective knowledge. (Think Star Trek's Borg.) While ChatGPT represents that it doesn’t retain information used in conversations, it does “learn” from every conversation.
Because of security concerns, many of our clients do not allow employees to use any online writing tools, such as Grammarly or mind mapping software. Confidential business information should never be used with ChatGPT. It’s an online service that requires an internet connection to function. As such, conversations and information shared with ChatGPT could be intercepted or monitored by third parties.
Companies must address this risk with employees. Employees need to be cognizant about not inputting confidential information into ChatGPT.
Despite these risks, there are many benefits to using ChatGPT, if used thoughtfully! Knowing these inherent risks will help you and your organization plan your use of this extraordinary tool wisely.
How can we reap the benefits of AI writing tools most effectively and safely?
Many AI experts and computer scientists agree that using AI tools for editing alone is effective, a major perk, and diminishes the risk of ChatGPT producing a reductive version of what you could write better yourself.
AI editing tools allow us to use our own brainpower to do the hard work of making sense of information and summarizing it. We can turn to AI for editing assistance, such as making a sentence sound more friendly, sprinkling in some context, spinning a story, or even telling a joke.
Your sentient thinking controls the information. ChatGPT can very safely refine the language for you, with no risk of reductive or inaccurate information.
Mary Cullen Originally published February 27, 2023, updated April 21, 2023
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.