Manual Academic Manuscript Shortening

Manual text shortening v AI text shortening


Writers of essays, theses and dissertations are usually given a maximum word count. Therefore, it is important that such writers distinguish between what is essential in a document and what is not. If a finished piece of work is only slightly above the maximum word count, then it can be a simple matter to achieve a word reduction. This can often be done by removing phrasal verbs with one-word verbs, avoiding repetition, and simplifying complex sentences. Such work is traditionally performed by human editors and proofreaders.


Since the advent of artificial intelligence, many people claim that AI software is better able to shorten the word count of a document than a human editor is. It has to be admitted that AI has many advantages. It can reduce the word count more quickly than a human editor can. It can produce a more precise and professional document. It also corrects grammar and spelling. So will AI eventually replace human editors and proofreaders? This is doubtful in the foreseeable future for the following reasons.


Every invention and feature has its pros and cons, and artificial intelligence is no exception. Consider a situation where an essay exceeds the maximum word count by a considerable margin. This means that some blocks of text will have to be omitted. How will AI ‘know’ what parts of the text should be removed? This will be impossible without consulting the author of the document. When human proofreaders come across this situation, they need to discuss this matter with the author and come to an agreement about which text should be removed. The proofreader is then free to correct any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors.


However, when artificial intelligence uses its own judgement to decide what text to omit in this situation, it cannot be guaranteed that it will keep the text that the author considers as essential. This will lead to a situation where the shortened document presented to the author by AI will omit essential words, and the author will have to make the changes manually with the help of a human editor.


Additionally, the more complex a document is, the more likely it is that AI will not be totally accurate. Consider a scientific thesis where accuracy is paramount. It has to be questioned whether AI can be sufficiently accurate to the satisfaction of the author.

Furthermore, legal documents require total accuracy to the most detailed punctuation.

In a legal document, a comma in the wrong place can alter the entire meaning, which could have serious repercussions. Can it be guaranteed that AI software, when reducing a legal document, can place every comma correctly? It is also particularly important in a legal document that no essential word is left out. For this reason, writers of legal documents are more likely to hire a human proofreader either instead of or in addition to AI.


Another disadvantage of AI is that it cannot understand human emotions, which may well need to be expressed in some academic writings. In this case, the author is more likely to prefer to hire a human editor. 

In conclusion, artificial intelligence has made considerable progress in recent years and is likely to continue to do in the future. However, for the time being, it is unlikely to replace human editors and proofreaders.

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