Are Authors and Writers Soon to Become an Endangered Species?

by Peggy on March 2, 2015

statue of liberty

If you believe the conspiracy theorists then the technology that “they” share with us today was developed twenty or thirty years ago and has advanced accordingly in those intervening years. Let’s hope this isn’t the case with the latest innovation in the arena of “writing and publishing.” Robot writing has quietly risen from the alleys of academia to main-street America.

I’m talking about a computer program called Quill. Quill was created to examine numerical data, scan the Internet for relevant material, assimilate and write a report which can be read and understood by humans. Narrative Science, the company that developed the software, has used it in the past to generate financial reports. That limited usage seems to be expanding. Now it is being used by government entities among them the NSA. It is also writing reports for large corporations and news agencies.

Quills strong suit? What takes a team of researchers or writers weeks of man-hours to assemble, correlate, and compose—Quill can do in seconds!

“It goes from the job of a small army of people

over weeks to just a few seconds,” says

Narrative Science CEO Stuart Frankel.

 Today Narrative Science rents the Quill software application to large corporations like T. Rowe Price, and USAA. Before you suspect that pesky blogger, who can correlate like-threads of data in minutes, of being a computer-camouflaged automaton, Frankel tells us that the software cannot “write” the article without numerical data upon which to hang its conclusions. However, if Quill is told you want a positive spin or a negative one, it can interpret the data either way. Wait a minute, aren’t newscasters, politicians and bankers doing that already?

Quill analyzes the numbers, scans the Internet for supporting data, adds the word-frame around the data, and before you can say,’ Sometimes-I-think-technology-sucks,’ Quill has spit out a nifty ten- to-fifteen page article. According to one of Narrative Science’s computer scientists, Kristian Hammond, Quill spits out its “millions of words per day” by using a set of “rules of writing.” I wonder where all those millions of words per day are being published?

Hammond goes on to say, “We [Quill] know how to introduce an idea, how to not repeat ourselves, how to get shorter.” I don’t know about you but to me those sound like the rules of the road for any accomplished writer.

  Kristian Hammond, a computer science

professor at Northwestern University and

scientist at Narrative Science says,

“We know how to introduce and idea,

not repeat ourselves, how to get shorter.”

Michael White, an associate professor at Ohio State University says (see article by Tom Simonite that “It’s [Quill’s] ability to finesse the angle and arc of the piece sets it apart….”  Although Quill is one of a hand-full of sophisticated robot-writing programs available, there are several writing-analysis apps that are gaining market share. Two of those apps are Hemingway and Let’s take a look at Hemingway first:


Hemingway claims to make your writing more “bold and clear” by looking at run-on sentences and analyzing the complexity of sentences, phrases, and word choices. At only $6.99 this app may be useful.

The second app is It has been around a long time and excels in analyzing duplicate word usage and run-on sentences. I have used myself and like it. I have read some positive reviews of Hemingway as well. Make no mistake, these programs are elementary compared to the sophistication of a program like Quill.


Both applications are fee-based but the fees are not prohibitive. The last time I purchased it was an annual $40 subscription which gave me the ability to analyze  entire manuscripts.

The Big Question

All these applications may be harbingers of a world to come … a world where writing is broken down into giant case statements and AI (artificial intelligence) rules of writing, auto-generated by mindless, binary machines that could care less about the impact or portent of the words, sentences, and paragraphs they assemble to create documents, articles, and perhaps, in the fullness of time … books.

I am sure Quill would have a problem with that last sentence. It doesn’t follow the rules. It is run-on, and perhaps could be said using fewer words, and better verbs. But it was written by a human being, and for me, that’s makes it far superior!

Hang on to your humanity in a world that seems to grow less human each day.



Peggy DeKay,  Speaker, Author, Book Coach

Peggy DeKay Peggy DeKay Peggy DeKay Peggy DeKay Peggy DeKay Peggy DeKay Peggy DeKay


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

john smith March 18, 2015 at 10:57 am

I found the article interesting. Not quite frightening when it comes to general applications, however, the NSA has been caught with the eyes on our email and lives. If they are talking about Quill…there must be something better that is hiding in the dark. When the SR-71 was retired, it’s top speed and other assets were never discussed, and the replacement has never been mentioned if official documents. “Big Brother” may not have been here in 1984, however, it is creeping up in quiet ways the general public will have no idea what happened until it is too late. Great Article…Thank you Peggy!


Peggy June 30, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Thanks John, glad you enjoyed it. When I saw the quote “millions of words per day” are generated by the Quills app I just had to wonder where all those words are being posted.


J. Paige Dunn March 4, 2015 at 3:20 am

Bet it can’t write fantasy, romance, or science fiction. 😉


Peggy June 30, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Thanks Paige, Perhaps not yet, but what about all those politicians that seem to come out with a book every three months? Quill might come in handy.


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