April 26, 2023

AI is an ally: How technical writers are partnering with AI

In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has made significant strides in the world of content creation. From chatbots that simulate human conversation to natural language processing (NLP) algorithms now able to generate coherent sentences and paragraphs, the possibilities provided by AI-generated content are seemingly endless, particularly in deadline-driven and resource-constrained environments. However, the need for human technical writers remains just as critical as ever, especially for crafting functional technical documentation that provides cohesive connections between companies and customers. While AI won’t be replacing technical writing jobs any time soon, both AI and human writers can work together harmoniously and efficiently through a variety of AI-powered documentation tools to provide functional documentation.

How AI assists (and doesn't) in documentation

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AI-powered tools help technical writers create and edit documentation

AI can help alleviate some of the common problems faced by documentation managers and technical writing managers by automating certain tasks and providing insights into documentation quality and performance. Through learning algorithms and user feedback analysis, many AI-powered tools can help identify patterns and inconsistencies in documentation, or reduce workload for support teams through chatbots. Some popular AI-powered documentation tools include:

  1. Grammarly uses AI-powered algorithms to analyze and provide suggestions on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and writing style. It can also detect plagiarism and suggest alternative phrasing for improved readability.
  2. Acrolinx leverages AI to compare content against a set of guidelines, style guides, and best practices, offering suggestions for improving the documentation quality and consistency in tone. It can also ensure that the content meets regulatory compliance standards and can be localized for different languages and cultures.
  3. Cognitivescale's automation platform uses AI to analyze complex data and processes, generating insights and recommendations for documentation that is more digestible for the end users it serves.
  4. Intercom is a knowledge management tool that helps teams quickly find and organize information, automate the creation of new content, and provide personalized support to customers using chatbots and other AI-powered technologies.
  5. Zendesk Guide's AI-powered help center platform can suggest relevant articles and answers to customers' queries based on their browsing history and search queries. It can also analyze customer feedback to improve the quality of the documentation over time.

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Limitations in AI documentation require human writers to make judgement calls and exercise creativity

AI can help technical writing professionals automate repetitive tasks, improve documentation quality, and provide better support to users. But while AI can be useful in certain areas, it is not a panacea for all of the challenges faced by documentation professionals. Some limitations of AI in this context may include:

A. Lack of domain expertise

AI algorithms may not have a deep understanding of the products or technologies they are documenting, which can result in inaccurate or incomplete information.

B. Limited creativity

AI-powered tools may struggle to capture the nuances of language and style that are important for creating engaging and effective documentation. Human writers and editors may be better able to convey complex concepts in a way that is easy for users to understand.

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C. Prohibitive cost

Implementing AI-powered tools can be expensive, particularly for small or medium-sized organizations that may not have the resources to invest in these technologies.

D. Lack of personalization

While AI algorithms can provide personalized recommendations based on user behavior, they may not be able to provide the same level of personalization and empathy that a human support agent can offer.

Overall, while AI can be a valuable writing assistant, it is important to recognize its limitations and balance it with human expertise and creativity, implementing AI-powered documentation tools and assistance where necessary.

AI and content writing

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The future of content writing?

The most advanced AI systems require extensive training and programming to produce content that comes close to meeting the high standards of modern technical writing. And that’s where human technical writers come in, providing the necessary expertise and insight to ensure that technical documentation is clear, concise, correct, and consistently keeping the needs of its audience in mind. 

From accurately guiding developers to providing pivotal customer touchpoints, technical documentation can have detrimental effects on the success of a service, product, or brand. API documentation must provide detailed and up-to-date guidance and notes for developers, reducing the potential for hours of troubleshooting and excess support tickets. Strong user documentation can encourage the success or failure of a product or service in the eyes of its users.

Will AI replace human technical writers?

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Your new coworker is quick and efficient

Crucial aspects of human technical writers include experience and judgment, which are only honed through years of working on numerous projects across a variety of industries. Seasoned technical writers are tuned in to the intricacies of technical writing, adhering to best practices, logically arranging content according to audience needs, and quickly identifying common challenges from prior experiences. Critical and creative thinking are necessary for producing high-quality technical documentation that considers the expectations of its end users, and this comes largely from working through multiple projects for multiple clients. While AI-assisted tools can be useful for streamlining the writing process, the human writer's experience and judgment guide the success of technical documentation.

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Writing experience can be pivotal in crafting effective documentation

Another important reason technical writing managers, engineering managers, and those overseeing technical documentation should rely on human writers is their contextual understanding. Crafting truly functional user documentation can be complex, requiring a detailed understanding of industry-specific terms, concepts, and processes. Only a human writer can bring this level of discernment to their tech writing, demystifying jargon where necessary, reducing clutter and ensuring that the documentation is both consistent and comprehensive.

The evolution of AI has undoubtedly changed the way we approach content writing and editing, but it is clear that human technical writers are necessary to produce tech documentation that is consistently accurate, logically organized, and error-free. With expertise in language, communication, and critical thinking, human technical writers bring a level of creativity and insight that is simply impossible to replicate with AI alone. As businesses continue to invest in AI-generated content, it is important to remember the critical role that human technical writers play in ensuring that documentation meets the highest standards of quality and accuracy.

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