I was in a planning meeting last
week with a client—with the CEO (we'll call her Jack Sparrow) and a VP (we'll call him Paulie).
Everything that Jack Sparrow said, Paulie would repeat... slightly rephrased.
"We should probably ask the Sales Team to weigh in," Jack Sparrow said at one point.
"We should run it up the flagpole," echoed Paulie.
A bit later:
"Then again, no one actually makes rational decisions," Jack Sparrow said.
"We are ruled by our emotions," Paulie added.
Paulie didn't add anything new to the conversation. It was like being on a Zoom with a parrot.
Perched on Jack's shoulder, Paulie restated what had already entered our earholes.
He squawked away. The meeting dragged. Paulie's parroting started to get on my nerves. If he asks for a cracker I'm gonna lose it.
Then I realized... maybe I need to shift perspective.
That's the great thing about being a writer, isn't it?
We can take things that irk us... and turn them into prose.
* * *
I see repeat-squawking all the time in
writing. Even when it's generated, edited, or extruded through AI tools.
I call it Parrot Writing.
It restates what's been said already, without adding any new information. You can feel the whoosh of the wings as Paulie swoops right into the middle of the text. Then tries to camouflage itself between the letters.
Let's wander around the Internet and
look for some parrots to live-edit mmkay?
* * *
From an agency:
"The scale of many B2B buying decisions means that it takes a lot of time to move through the decision-making process. Often times, the process will be inactive for periods at a time. Nonetheless, it's a long-term
Parrot word: "Often times..."
Live edit: Let's simplify to "Often."
Parrot word: "Process" used 3 times in the same paragraph?
Live edit: Let's change the "process" in that second sentence to "buyer." As in: "Often, the buyer will be inactive for stretches at a time."
Parrot sentence: The last sentence in that paragraph: "It's a long-term process." Total parrot.
Live edit: Cut it completely. We don't need it.
From a consulting firm:
"Gen Z consumers are looking for highly curated, personal and purpose-driven
experiences both in products and in store choice. For Gen Z shoppers, the most meaningful experiences are tied to action and activism. Gen Zs are doers. They are choiceful with their attention, purposeful with their time and conscious of their consumption."
Parrot sentence: That last sentence uses different words. But it echoes what's already been said.
Live edit: Cut it.
Side note: Did that adjective choiceful jump out at you,
Choiceful sounds like a fake word. But it's not. It can mean
"can't make a decision."
Not sure it works here, TBH. Said another way: I
am choiceful about whether I should point out here that the consultants meant choosy or intentional. (lol)
* * *
I promised an AI-produced perching parrot.
Here we go. I asked one AI editing tool I've been playing with to edit a first-person opinion piece. The author wrote:
"Personally, I dislike that point of view."
The tool suggested a few alternatives, including:
"I myself do not like that point of view."
"Personally, I am not a fan of that point of
"That point of view is personally distasteful to me."
The tool tried to find a home for the parrot word personally. It shouldn't have. The tool even went as far as to sew a new parrot-sized outfit for it with its
suggestion of "I myself."
Why is personally a parrot?
Because context: It's obvious that the writer's opinion is personal, isn't it? It's a first-person opinion piece.
Live edit: "I dislike that point of view."
BOOM. Simple. Direct. No fuss. That's all you need.
Everything everywhere is complicated. Sometimes, your reader needs you to give them a simple, declarative sentence.
* * *
Wrapping up today with two important reminders:
Beware the camouflaged parrot.
An AI writing tool is only as good as the writer. You need to manage the tool to produce your best work.
And one more:
If Paulie puts a meeting on your calendar... Run! (Or, as he might chime
in... Flee! Scram! Skedaddle!)
> How to Write Like Robots Can't Six ways to make your words belong to you (and not the robot Roomba).
> Editing Is the Fun Part of Writing Send your words to the salon for highlights, a spray tan, and waxing. What emerges is gor-jus.
> Should You Ungate Your Content? [An Everybody Writes 2 book excerpt]
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The link again.
A content tool I discovered this week.
WordMom is a database that delivers words by pattern, length, category. Need a verb that ends with B because it gives your sentence the right kind of beat and music? Moms know everything.
DEPARTMENT OF SHENANIGANS
My new favorite word.