AI writing feedback can sound confident, authoritative, and academic and still be bad. Large language models like ChatGPT and the apps built on them are designed to predict likely next words, not to be right.
The downside of this is that we might be distracted or misled by AI. Jane Rosensweig, director of the Harvard Writing Center, explores this risk in her piece "What Happens When a Novice Writer Asks ChatGPT for Editing Advice?"
The upside is that being skeptical of AI feedback just might be empowering. We might clarify our own purpose in writing as we reflect on whether the feedback aligns with what we really want to say. Even if the feedback does resonate, it's still valuable to articulate why we like it. And more practice critiquing plausible-sounding AI suggestions never hurts in an era when AI will likely have an increasing presence in our personal and professional lives.
Below are some phrases that reflect possible ways we might respond to AI feedback. There will be countless others; these are offered as a beginning to give a sense of the possibilities. Please feel free to suggest additional phrases by commenting on this page.
Note: the quoted phrases followed by asterisks were generated by a large language model as detailed in the acknowledgments.
Reflect on what isn't clear to us about the AI feedback
- I'm not sure what the AI feedback could refer to when it says _____________.
- The AI feedback advises that I _____________, but I'm not clear whether that's necessary because the assignment says _____________.
- I'm puzzled by the AI's suggestion to _____________. How does that fit in a _____________ essay where the instructor is asking for _____________?
- I'm not sure what the AI advice to _____________ means in practice. Does it mean _____________?
Reflect on ways the feedback doesn't fit our meaning or purpose
- The AI feedback suggests _____________, but I'm not sure this is what I want to do because _____________.
- The AI feedback seems to assume that I am claiming _____________ when in fact I meant to say _____________.
- "The AI feedback suggests a misunderstanding of the section of my essay about _____________. I was aiming to convey _____________."*
- The AI feedback steers me toward _____________, but that's not my priority because I think it's more important to _____________.
- The idea of working on _____________ in my essay seems reasonable, but it's more important to me to _____________ because I want to make sure that readers understand _____________.
- If I follow the AI suggestion to _____________, I'm concerned that _____________.
- "I'm not sure if the AI feedback fits the tone I was going for. It suggests _____________, but I was aiming for a more _____________ feel."*
Reflect on what we do like about the AI feedback and why it fits our purpose
- The AI feedback says "_____________," and that helped me see that _____________ needs work in my essay. I think the feedback is right about this because _____________.
- I was already thinking _____________ about my essay, so the AI feedback that _____________ resonates.
- I've been concerned that _____________, and the suggestion that _____________ could help resolve that.
- The AI feedback suggests I clarify _____________, so I am considering explaining that _____________.
- "The AI highlighted _____________, which I had overlooked. I think this could be important to include because _____________."*
- I hadn't thought about _____________ in the essay, but the feedback makes a good point that _____________.
Reflect on new ideas we get as we read the AI feedback
- The AI feedback on _____________ makes sense, but it made me realize I don't really want to keep the part where I say _____________ after all. I really want to focus on _____________.
- "Reading the AI feedback about _____________ made me think of a new approach: I can talk about _____________ in terms of _____________."*
- "The AI comments on _____________ reminded me of a related point I might want to add: _____________."*
Once we've decided what we think about the AI feedback, we can brainstorm what to do about it. We may want to write a revision plan or a list of writing tasks like brainstorming on a particular topic, rereading to clarify a point, researching to add evidence, or reorganizing a section. For more on revision strategies, see Section 11.6: Revision.
AI feedback should complement, not replace, human feedback. After all, writing is a way to relate to others; it has meaning when we use it to communicate with humans. Writers often have breakthroughs when we talk through our drafts, our reactions to the AI feedback, and any uncertainties with our instructor, a tutor, or a peer.
The above template phrases followed by asterisks (*) were adapted from ChatGPT output responding to a "Template phrases for reflecting on AI feedback prompt," ChatGPT, 25 Sep. version, OpenAI, 8 Oct. 2023, https://chat.openai.com/share/9c526e9b-b654-4c24-abb3-01a173026a63. The remaining original phrases and the organizational structure are by Anna Mills and are shared under a CC BY 4.0 license.