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If you think that you can just have it generate something for you within a minute or two, then you can sit back and hit the send key on your computer, please don’t do that, tempting as it may be.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workspace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, and with me is my friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice.
And I’ll just mention to our listeners that I’m recovering from laryngitis, so I apologize for the squeaky voice.
Our topic today is writing with ChatGPT. In a survey done by the Authors Guild, 23% of writers reportedly used ChatGPT in some form during the writing process. Writers utilize generative AI technologies in various ways, including grammar review, brainstorming, and marketing. Now for today, we’re specifically talking about ChatGPT, just one artificial intelligence platform. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using this to help you in any of these areas. We’re not saying that ChatGPT should be used as a replacement for your own thought genius being shared, but merely noting how it can be used as a tool to help you get your thoughts out of your head and into the world. Think of it more as a support or a helpful assistant. I’ve even used a few platforms to help speed up my own writing process. However, I can tell you that a machine sounds like a machine. I bet if I handed you two writing samples, you could pick out which one I did and which one was ChatGPT. It is great at generating text, but it cannot match my originality and emotional impact. It also isn’t as in tune or connected with my target audience. But there are ways to help the platform learn my voice and sound like me. So teaching ChatGPT or other artificial intelligence platforms your writing style can help keep its content suggestions more consistent. And certainly we’re not perfect writers. Well, at least I’m not. And there are so many grammar rules and vocabulary to keep track of. And at times, it’s not easy to keep our thoughts flowing seamlessly from one to the other. ChatGPT can even help us learn and improve upon what we do now. I’m already thrilled by the vision of cutting down my editing time by one or two read throughs.
Joining us today as an expert on this topic is Linda Comerford. Linda has been training busy working professionals for the past 30 years, and I won’t say how many years ago, but she actually trained both Susan and I very early in our careers. Linda trains and coaches in writing, grammar, speaking, customer service, and interpersonal communication skills, including her certification in emotional intelligence. Add a great sense of humor to Linda’s savvy business sense, and you’ll understand why her clients describe her as an edutainer with her workshops that work. Linda, it’s always good to have you here, so thanks for joining us again today.
Linda, what do you think – is ChatGPT going to replace our need for us to participate in the writing process?
I am sure that a lot of your listeners who hate to write – I’ve had people tell me they’d rather have their teeth pulled without benefit of Novocaine and then have to write something – wish I would say yes, that Chat will replace the human need to do that. The answer is not at this point in time. No. I’m going to give you some cautionary tips to answer that exact question that you just asked me. And I will tell you, when I first heard about ChatGPT, my first thought was, oh my gosh, I’m going to hate this thing, it is going to be horrible, I will never use it. Well, I decided I couldn’t just make an assumption like that and I had to actually try using it, so I did. And I started doing a lot of research on it. And surprise, I really found a lot of advantages to it. And I really liked working with it. And I was just amazed at how fast it can write. I don’t know about you two, Susan and JoDee, or the rest of… of you listening, but I’m a writing instructor, trainer, teacher, whatever. For absolutely years, I’ve been teaching the subject, and it’s still hard for me to write. You know, you get the blinking cursor on the screen and can’t find a word or whatever. So to me, the fact that I could just put in a request to Chat and within a minute, I get a whole article or document, it was like, this is just amazing. It’s not fair that a computer can do it that fast and I can’t.
Linda, it really makes me happy that you struggle to write too. I love that. And you’re an excellent writer. So do you mind walking us through some of the pros of ChatGPT? What are some of the real advantages?
I would be glad to do that, Susan. I now view ChatGPT – I’ve got an acronym for you – as a Good Practice Tool. It’s something to practice with, practice to help give you something in writing that perhaps might be better than you could come up with on your own, or even if you could come up with something better, you don’t have the amount of time when Chat can do it in two minutes. So Good Practice Tool. But beyond that…. That’s, that’s my biggest pro, then we’ll get into the cons. So I have for you five pros. Number one, it’s easy to use. I mean, it’s even easy to use to get started with it. I thought I wouldn’t even be able to get into the tool itself. And I generated my little username and password and Chat said, we’re ready to go, ask me what you want me to write for you and I’ll do it. Okay! Because I’m not a technological genius and I can get in and use it easily, all of you can as well. Number two, as I mentioned a moment ago, it saves you time because it writes so quickly and so efficiently. But beyond that, not just writing for you – and here’s where it’s really got great advantages. What it does is it functions as… it can function as a research assistant for you. By that I mean, you just put a topic in and… and it will do all the research for you. And I’ve had people ask me, hey, can’t we just Google that topic and get the same… same result? Not really, because Chat is a lot more focused on what it is you actually want them to research. It just has a different feel to the research. Again, if we’re looking to save time, and I – I’m one of those people who, with the holidays coming, I’m asking for more than 24 hours a day and I’m not going to get it in my Christmas stocking, because we’re all so darn busy. It’ll just really get you what you need research-wise really fast, so I suggest replace Google with Chat. Number four, what it really shines at is brainstorming for you. Because again, Susan, that blinking cursor, sometimes you’re just looking and say, I don’t even know how to start, I don’t even know what I want to say. And what I recommend in my classes is that you do a two-minute what I call a… a “jot exercise,” where you just have your topic and you just jot down all of your ideas for two minutes and then come up with… with your ideas. And that is a great tool that I’ve used successfully, recommended to many people who say, wow, I love… I love doing the jot. But my jot for two minutes was nothing compared to what Chat came up with in a few seconds. What was interesting was most of the ideas were… were similar. I was creating a program called “10 Tips for Delivering Powerful Presentations,” and it came up with 10 tips as well. I’d say about seven or eight of them were the same as what I had come up with, but it came up with two or three others where I thought, I could have sat here for a week and never have come up with those good ideas. So it really helps as a brainstorming tool. Finally, if you’re not the best writer – and Susan… Susan and JoDee are both really good writers, I do have to say that – but if you feel like you’re not the best writer, just don’t know how to word things, it gives you sample wordings that you can use. Now you’re – we’re going to skip quickly to a con here, because I’m done with my five pros. The biggest con is that if you think that you can just have it generate something for you within a minute or two and you can sit back and hit the send key on your computer, please don’t do that, tempting as it may be. It’s just not going to generate something that’s send ready. You have to do some work on your own to get it to that point. So you will save time in the planning and the writing, but you still have to get in and do the… the reviewing of it yourself. So that’s… that’s the biggest… that’s the biggest con. More on that in a moment. Con number one on my list here is, if you really want to use Chat effectively, be careful choosing the right words you want to use for what Chat calls a prompt. That’s the topic that you want Chat to research. So you type in your topic. If you are too general, my gosh, you’ll get the world of information. I do not know how many sources Chat has at its fingertips, but it’s thousands – I’m guessing more like millions of documents and articles and wordings that it compiles for you when it writes for you. So I tried putting in a prompt of “the value of computer software training in the business world.” It was… it was all over the place. There – it was too much. I couldn’t do anything with it. So I narrowed it down to something more specific, “best practices for using Outlook, Word, and Excel for beginners in the business world,” and that focused down to where it got to more of what I was looking for. And probably then you could even focus it down to just Outlook, just Word, just whatever. Write your prompts carefully. And I did find that this is kind of interesting, because unfortunately, the world seems to be kind of rude in the way people interact with each other nowadays. And Chat was very specific in saying, when you write your prompt, please do so politely. We are looking for polite wording as you make the request. A computer even cares about us being polite. So… so be polite as you… as you write to it. Okay, number two, as I mentioned, Chat cannot replace writing something in your own human, authentic style. Susan and JoDee, how many years have you two worked with each other?
Nine years. By now I think you pretty much know each other’s writing styles. So I have kind of a feeling that if JoDee were to write to Susan and send something that Chat had written instead, Susan might be sitting back scratching her head saying, “That just doesn’t quite sound like the JoDee that I know. This… it just doesn’t quite, air quotes, ‘sound like JoDee.'” So you want to make sure that you – I would say that JoDee would “JoDee-fy” her wording sending it to Susan so that it would sound authentic. Number three, when you get information from Chat, that information can be biased. So if you are researching something that could be seen as controversial, and there are a lot of controversial subjects floating around out there in the world today, depends on who wrote the article what kind of bias you might get in what you receive from Chat. So make sure it actually aligns with your values and what you really want to convey with the document that you’re sending out. That information can also be outdated. As you can imagine, Chat does not update what’s in their system all that often, so you could be working with outdated, and therefore even – because this world just changes so much nowadays so quickly – actually, you could be dealing with receiving inaccurate information. So make sure you check to see that things aren’t outdated or inaccurate.
And one thing I’ve recommended that people do, the first time I was on ChatGPT is I just typed in my own name to see what would come up, and there were several errors in there. In general, most of what it said was correct, but I think that’s a good test for everyone to do, to put in your own name. And then you realize, yes, it does make mistakes. It doesn’t have all accurate information out there.
JoDee, wow, I had not heard that before. That is fabulous. And in my virtual workshops, I have gotten these gold coins that are actually chocolate coins, and I give those out to people for great ideas. You just earned yourself a gold coin for that one.
Oh, can you mail it to me?
Sure. The check’s in the mail. The coin’s in the mail.
If it’s chocolate, I want it.
It’s chocolate, it is chocolate. That’s… That’s wonderful. And I’m now… I’m interested to see what it will say about me. Soon as we’re done with this podcast, you know what I’ll be doing. And then you also have to be careful to proofread for grammar, punctuation, spelling. And as I just mentioned a moment ago, accuracy errors, it is not perfect in any way, shape, form, or manner. And in my research, it actually showed that it has a tutorial on grammar and punctuation that it says if you don’t know grammar and punctuation, use their rules. I’m a little skeptical about that. And that’s something else I have on my to-do list is to check to see how accurate their grammar and punctuation really is. So to be continued. And finally, if you… any of you out there are in college or have college children, you know, students in college or whatever, please be careful about plagiarism issues. Even something that you send out that you get from Chat and you… you send it out to people, you run the risk of somebody seeing, like, if you post on a Facebook or LinkedIn or something like that, you’ve written something and it’s from Chat, someone could look at that and say, “Wait a minute. I wrote that about three years ago. That’s my article, how dare they steal my article?” Because as I said, when you get information from Chat, you know, it came from ChatGPT, you don’t know who actually contributed to the document. And let me tell you what happened to the son of a friend of mine, a college student who had the assignment to write a paper about a poem, and the professor had given them the poem and then you had to analyze the poem according to some criteria that the professor assigned. Well, weekend, you know, was… the weekend was beckoning, and hey, go out and play or write a paper? I’ll use Chat. So he did, and Chat created what I think I probably would have considered to be an A paper, except for one thing. Remember, I said to you the professor had provided the poem. Chat also provided the poem, but two or three words were different from the poem in the Chat version than in the professor’s version. And that was a huge red flag for the professor who said, “Wait a minute,” and then from that miswording, was able to track down where the student had actually gotten the paper, and the student wound up before the review board, board of ethics, almost got suspended from college.
Totally agree with your pros and cons. That can be very helpful to us. Much speedier process, but we… we have to review. Now, you mentioned earlier, you talked about if Susan and I wrote something to each other, we might recognize that it doesn’t sound like our normal writing voice. What are some tips that you might give our listeners on how we can help… help with that, or just in general to have ChatGPT work to our advantage?
Yes, I actually brought my top 10 tips for writing that I will go through very quickly, and they will help you have an authentic voice writing style that other people actually want to… to read and continue communicating with you about. So this isn’t one of the 10 tips, but I want you all to know, you have a writing reputation. Little bit different than the writing between Susan and JoDee with the voice. Your writing reputation is when your name pops up in somebody’s inbox. What’s a typical reaction? And I’m just going to use Susan and JoDee as… as examples. So let’s say that JoDee, Susan’s name pop up in her inbox and says, “Oh, wow, Susan, I love when Susan writes to me. So easy. I know exactly what she wants me to do and I can respond, she gives me bullet points and I can write in my responses, and yay.” Oh, then what happens? JoDee sees something from Linda Comerford and says, “Oh, man, now I’m getting something from Linda. I never know what that what that woman wants me to do. Am I supposed to just think about this, say aha, respond back, this… It’s so unclear. I don’t even know if she’s pro or con against this… this topic we’re writing about. I have more questions than answers.” So what happens with that? JoDee will, when she gets something from me, see my name in her inbox and say, “Not dealing with Linda today.” And she puts me in her “I’ll get around to it later” pile or file. You never want to get into somebody else’s “I’ll get around to it later” pile or file, because the emails come in so quickly that those just drop down to the bottom, and you’re sitting there saying “I’m never getting a response from people, why not?” Because they aren’t looking to read your stuff. And you… you get to the bottom and you don’t get the response that you’re looking for. So you want a writing reputation that when your name pops up in somebody’s inbox, they say, “Oh, wow, I can’t wait to read this.” Now, 10 tips from there. Number one, when you write, you have to know your audience and write to them, and you have to meet their needs, meaning you have a purpose when you write. And that is something that nobody or nothing – little reference here to Chat – knows better than you. So before you even start writing, who’s my audience? What’s my purpose? Get that clear. Tip number two – and out of the 10 tips I’m giving you, this is the only one that Chat did just about perfectly- and it relates to how you organize your piece of writing. Introduction, body, conclusion. Chat did that flawlessly. And I threw a lot of different challenges its way with lots of different polite requests about try this, try that Chat and every time a clear introduction, then the body material that supported the introduction, and then a ribbon around the package for a conclusion that related back to the introduction. So if you have a challenge organizing your writing, Chat can become your new best friend. Tip number three, and JoDee mentioned that your voice, your writing voice is as unique as a fingerprint. I did a lot of work for the government a few years ago and the director of a department would call out various assistants and say, “Hey, write a paper on this.” So write a memo on this, write a proposal on that. And the people would always do the same thing. They’d say, “Hey, Director, how do you want us to do that? What kind of information should we include? How do you want us to format it?” And what did the director say? “Any way you do it is going to be fine with me.” Kiss of death whenever anybody tells you that, because when they did create what they had written and showed it to the director, that’s when, “No,” the director said, “That’s not what I wanted. I’d never say it like that. No, you missed some points. No, this is….” So anyway, that shows that the director wanted her fingerprint, not her assistant’s, on her writing. And my advice there is, you want something with your fingerprint, it has to sound exactly like you, write it yourself. Don’t delegate it to somebody else. And that includes Chat. Tone. Chat can have a very negative tone because Chat does not have feelings. So a tone of voice is super important. And I was on a call yesterday with someone who said that she had received from one of her people in her organization, what she called a “tone-deaf email.” And wow, my ears perked up on that. I loved that phrase. Haven’t we received those tone-deaf emails where we’re, like, thinking, “oh my gosh”? And it went out to like eight different people, probably only two or three needed to actually receive it, and it really put the person who wrote it in a bad light. It was not polite, it was rude and snippy. So watch out for tone. Number five, clarity. Chat does not handle complex or ambiguous situations very effectively. It tries to be robotic and computerized and… and you can find yourself with a worse document than you could have ever created yourself in a million years. So watch out. You have to check, is the document clear for you and for your… your various audience members? Okay, the next four tips all blend together. First of all the word long. Please don’t use long words. Don’t use long sentences. Check out that they are short and quick and easy for your reader to be able to understand. Tip number eight is paragraphs. Chat does not write in paragraphs. Chat typically tends to like to write in lists. And when I asked it to convert those lists into paragraphs, I got a two line paragraph for the 10 different whatever list things that it listed before. So you’re going to have to be sure that Chat uses paragraphs for you unless you really do want lists instead. Tip number nine, you want a scannable format. Your lists have to… your bolding, your… your… how you format those, Chat does it inconsistently. You will find one list has bullet points, another is numbered, you will have one list had bolded words and other does not. You must go through and check to be sure that they’re all the same at the end. And my last tip, I repeat it again, accuracy, grammar, punctuation, spelling, facts that only you can know. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Alright, so now I want to share with you an example of a Chat-written example, a creative example relating to emotional intelligence. Oh yes, it’s very creative, but think, would you ever write like this? Here we go. “Emotions. Those wild roller coasters of feelings that make us laugh, cry, and occasionally want to throw a tantrum like a toddler denied a second scoop of ice cream. But wait. There’s a secret to mastering these emotional acrobatics. It’s called Emotional Intelligence or EQ, and it’s about as mystical as learning to juggle flaming marshmallows. In this essay, we’ll embark on a sidesplitting journey through the hilarious world of emotional intelligence, discovering why it’s essential, how to develop it, and how it can turn even the most emotional shipwrecks into circus performers.”
Creative? Yes. Make you laugh? Yes. Your style? Probably not. So please use ChatGPT as the Good – even Great – Practice Tool it is and you’re sure to get lots of value from that tool.
Very nice. Lots of great advice in there, Linda, that we appreciate you sharing with us and our listeners. What – If people have questions or need help with writing, grammar, presentations, how can they get ahold of you?
They can reach me through my email, which is Linda at Comerford Consulting dot com. C-O-M-E-R-F-O-R-D. Linda at Comerford Consulting dot com. They can visit my website, www.comerfordconsulting.com, or just call me on my cell….
Thank you so much. You know we love to ask a question about joy in your work. What is one small step or change you’ve made during your career that boosted your joy at work?
I don’t have enough time to tell you how joyful – how much joy it brings to my life to teach emotional intelligence. Yes, I love all the subjects you just mentioned, JoDee, but emotional intelligence is actually life changing. And it’s a subject that unfortunately, students aren’t receiving any information about in school or oftentimes in the business world, but it’s becoming more and more popular. And it just – when you realize that you can control your emotions, life just opens up to all kinds of new possibilities. So that has brought me a lot of joy, as well as working with Purple Ink. That’s always a joy for me.
Thank you so much, Linda.
Thank you, Linda. Thank you so much.
You are very welcome.
Our listener question today is from a listener of one of our regular podcasts. And of course, we always welcome questions from any of our listeners. The question was regarding FMLA and ADA, so the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. “What happens if an associate is terminated for taking unapproved leave because they didn’t provide medical documentation, but then they reapply to the same or a similar position with the same organization? Can the organization refuse to hire the former employee?” So, this is a bit of a long answer to the question, but it’s a complicated question. So it is essential to handle the situation in a fair and consistent manner. Whether the organization can refuse to hire the former employee if they reapply for the same or a similar position really depends on some factors like company policies and the specific circumstances surrounding the termination and the reapplication. But here are some things to think about. Number one, company policies. The policies and procedures in place to govern employee attendance, leave, and documentation requirements should outline the consequences of violating them, including termination. If the policies were violated and the person was terminated accordingly, the organization may have grounds to consider the past behavior when deciding whether to rehire. Specifically, another area is on rehire policies. Organizations should have clear policies regarding rehiring former employees, including those who were terminated for whatever reason. These may specify a waiting period before a terminated employee can reapply or outline the circumstances under which rehiring may or may not be considered. Third, think about the circumstances and improvement. Organizations may consider factors, such as the reasons for the previous termination, the performance and conduct during their prior employment, and any evidence of growth or improvements since that time. The fourth is consistency. It’s crucial for organizations to apply their rehiring policies consistently to avoid any perception of discrimination or unfairness.
It’s time for in the news. The allocation and use of vacation time is turning out to be an important measure of the remote work versus in office work debate, which continues. An analysis of HR management software provider Gusto shows that remote workers are taking 5.5% less vacation time than their in-office counterparts. This debunks the belief that remote workers are less engaged and likely to take more time off. The report found that remote workers only took an average of 86 hours of vacation time over the last year, but that non-remote workers or in-office workers took 91 hours. Gusto surmises that with more flexible work schedules and locations both inside and outside of the home, those working remotely may experience less burnout. But they also warn that employers should check in on their remote workers to make sure they’re not taking vacation time simply because they don’t feel entitled to it or because they feared taking time off may look like they’re not as hard working.
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