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Writing By Numbers

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The WordPress blogging platform now has an AI assistant to answer questions, correct spelling and grammar, etc. to make a blogger’s life easier. I’m going to use last week’s post and take it for a spin.

I’ll try Expand first. My original paragraph in black and its expansion in red. [Correct grammar]

Expand

“As a follow-on from past posts on the subject of architectural reductions and the gradual lessening of the number of avenues open to architects to create architecture, the placement of windows may well be one of the last elements to go. The relationship between walls and openings in architecture is intrinsic and essential, as they harmoniously work together to form the visual and functional aspects of a building. While it is indeed possible to have an external wall without a window, the inclusion of windows signifies the presence of people inhabiting the space beyond, thus serving as a fundamental reason for the existence of buildings.”

Whoa! And just like that, 105 words became 470 – a definite expansion. It looks like my first sentence was incomprehensible as it has no place in the summary, the third paragraph of which is a bit over the top. And “Fortunately, we do not have to imagine such a dismal prospect, …” a bit creepy. However, the sense of the original hasn’t been lost – I still agree with everything that’s been written even if it is extremely wordy. You can see how instructors can spot AI writing instantly. It’s not so much the unlikely vocabulary or the ever-present “In conclusion”, but more because there’s not much being said that’s new. I’m not saying my source paragraph was concise, succinct and an economy of means, but I can’t help thinking “Inflate” is a more apt word than “Expand.”

Let’s try Summarize. Here’s the entire post summarized.

Summarize

This is a low-pass. By definition, summaries don’t include everything but only the main thrust, the general gist. My post was never meant to be a historical overview. It was more of my working list of ways certain architects have made the placement of windows work harder architecturally. The approaches of Josef Polasek, [Ignzaio Gardella], Asnago & Vender, Gio Ponti, and Diener & Diener weren’t about the design of windows but the design of their placement although, to be fair, the phrase “unique approaches to window placement” was used later. There’s no mention of context as a driver for those approaches. I did mention Gio Ponti was the only one with no agenda beyond ornament but I was comparing this group of architects who strove for more, with all other architects. That was the main point. Let’s Expand the Summary and see what happens. I expect a lower density of meaning.

(Un-summarize)

Oh dear! As a former translator who used to be paid by the word of the destination text, I can see much filler here with words such as comprehensive, intruiging, captivating, pivotal, vital, visionary … and that’s just the adjectives. Horrible as it is, “deep dive” could have been said differently in at least six words. This inflation adds some supplementary text, particularly for the description of Sullivan. All the same, the “Chicago window” is about window design not placement. The descriptions for the other architects could easily be mistaken for fact. The expanded summary makes even more use of words such as “the author” and “the text” and assumes an academic context. I suppose that’s fair.

Simplify

“What Sullivan did was redefine those accepted divisions in terms of functions while forgetting to remember that classical columns had bases, shafts and capitals because of different functional requirements in the first place. (Did nobody point this out to him, I wonder?) Whether Sullivan was being obtuse or simply reframing the problem for newly modern times, his functional justification for a three-part tall building is less dependent upon time and fashion. It’s true that mechanical and services floors have no need for conventional windows but then why do the external walls of the uppermost floors have fluted cornices looking suspiciously like capitals? If we’re going to talk about function suddenly, then it’s not as if these tall buildings are actually supporting anything. Maybe Sullivan saw the absurdity of this in 1896. In 1922, Adolf Loos definitely did.”

This seems okay but I prefer mine. My last sentence was difficult to summarize so has been re-rendered rather than omitted as inessential.

Change Tone

The image below shows the choices I’m given. As before, my original paragraph is in black. I’d love to compare these different tones, but I’ve already used ten of my 20 free uses of this experimental plug-in that I’m warned may be inaccurate or biased. Once I’ve used my twenty goes, I’m expected to pay for a Beta version. This leads me to think this AI interface is just a portal to some other LLM AI that WordPress done has a deal with. (One passing thought is how misleading Large Language Model is as a name. Yes, it’s a model but not an accurate one because communication language is more about than knowing what word next comes.) Anyway, I think I’ll change the tone to “Humourous” because my posts are never funny enough. My paragraph in black.

Change Tone: “Humorous”

I’m regretting writing the source text. At the risk of squandering my remaining free goes, I want to see what happens with “Provocative” – in a car-crash kind of way.

Change Tone: “Provocative”

I’m guessing wink and mic drop are emojis. I notice that in both of these tone changes, written language has morphed into spoken language. This seems a strange shift as I’d always assumed these Large Languages Models are mainly trained on written language. What else has it been listening to? Anyway, I’d like to see the tone change options include “Pretentious”, “Plain”, “Gushing”, “Academic”, “Annoying”, “Legal”, “Ironic”, “Ironic, in a self-critically opaque kind of way” and so on. For now, I’ll go with “Serious”.

Change Tone: “Serious”

That’s so serious I can even see a bit of me in it, although from every angle is frivolous and the closing words, and it is truly gratifying to appreciate the meaningful essence that lies right before our eyes, waiting to be discovered too breathless to be seriously serious.

Translate

Ask AI (first time)

I selected a paragraph and issued my instruction. The result wasn’t what I expected. I don’t think I understand how this works yet.

Misfits’ Architecture: A Unique Take on Architectural Design

Love it!! Unfortunately, I’m not good with praise. Do I need a summary? No, but now I’m curious.

Summary

Graham Brenton McKay, the creative mind behind the renowned blog Misfits’ Architecture, offers a unique perspective on architectural design. In this engaging journey, we explore the unconventional aspects that shape the built environment. McKay’s discerning eye challenges traditional norms, unveiling the hidden narratives behind architectural masterpieces and forgotten structures. Embracing the unorthodox, we celebrate the misfits of the architectural world and redefine architecture one unconventional insight at a time.

What’s disconcerting is the feeling I’ve read this kind of writing before. The words appear in arrangements that seem statistically the most probable. It’s grammatical and reads easily but is as predictable and impersonal as advertising copy. It’s flat.

Ask AI (second time)

• • • 

Giving a heading to exactly other sentence seems a bit “mechanical” but does or should “to understand is to forgive” apply? [Simplify] Was Henry James 148 years old when he wrote American Psycho? [Ask AI]

I’ll keep coming back to check, but I think I’ve seen enough. I just wanted to know if this AI Assistant would be of any assistance, despite the disclaimer warning me of inaccuracies and bias. This is the easy part. I wasn’t impressed by either the choice or results of the tone changes. Their predictability and lameness were off-putting. Is “tone” even the right name? As for grammar, I don’t use Grammarly but I know that mistakes occur from hastily moving words around to make a sentence parse better. You might not believe me but, whenever I’ve finished a post, I give it one more read before posting, and another the day after to any correct typos, unexpected punctuation and curious grammar that remain. I won’t apologize for any that do. Being human is no excuse but, all of a sudden, these errors show a piece of writing hasn’t been touched by AI and, in a surprise twist, are an inadvertent sign of respect for the reader.