For any business, organization, or even individual writer, maintaining a consistent voice is a constant challenge. Writer is a startup aiming to provide a solution with a smart built-in style guide that goes beyond simple error checking. After seeding $5 million last year, the company has now raised A$21 million to continue developing and improving its service.
Founder and CEO May Habib says writing is “the last unstructured business process,” which is perhaps a little optimistic (sometimes I think every business process is unstructured) but nonetheless a compelling thesis to build on. a company. Writing is, after all, fundamentally a creative process, and only by consistently taming this process can writing be used as a business tool. (Even now, I tame it: must…resist…use em dashes in every sentence.)
It’s one thing to make sure the copy is clean and precise, it’s quite another to make sure a dozen writers don’t have conflicting styles, use inaccurate or inappropriate phrases and s usually stick to the tone and style chosen by management. Sure, there are style guides — even TechCrunch has one — but anyone who writes for a living knows how hard it can be to stop and consult one when they’re in the zone.
Writer is meant to be a kind of style guide angel that sits on your shoulder and keeps your writing in line while you write. It connects to Chrome and Word, among other platforms, and instantly surprises you on everything from typos to corporate tone. Basically, Habib explained, you “take these 80, 90 page guidelines and turn them into a web application that becomes the single source of truth.” Notably, all of this is done without using a client company’s content as training data, so there’s no risk of HIPAA or security violations this way.
This not only helps keep the copy clean, but also ensures companies take action on things like, say, inclusive language. A company may not have considered it worth formalizing in their style guide how to use gender-neutral language or how to refer to various groups in preferred ways, but it’s built into Writer if you want – just tick a few boxes and now all of your business copy will be written more inclusively as recommended by experts. There are other basic rules that users can configure around common things like hyphenation, spacing, date and location formatting, serial commas, and more.
But you knew all that, because you read all about Writer in 2020. So what’s up? Well, aside from the money, the business is growing fast. They nearly doubled their staff from 14 to 25 (still small, of course, but growing rapidly) and signed a long list of top clients: Twitter, Intuit, Pinterest, Accenture, Deloitte and UnitedHealthcare among about 150 Following . The growing client list has contributed to a tripling of ARR over the past year. DAUs and MAUs and all those nice metrics have been steadily increasing as well.
The trust of satisfied customers led the company to begin to diversify its service, moving from correction and guidance to automation. Now, “automated” writing sounds pretty bad, but only if you still hold on to that creative instinct. Writing is synonymous with effective communication and, in a professional context, it means consistency. Thus, elements such as text snippets, already widely used in the industry, can be included in a smarter and more easily deployed way.
The app now also supports multiple teams within an organization, so sales and writing, for example, don’t have conflicting definitions or recommendations. There’s also Figma integration, a commonly requested feature now that style is included in larger design systems at many companies.
The most intriguing feature is still a bit further down the roadmap: a more sophisticated language-aware AI system that understands context and content, similar to OpenAI’s GPT-3 but developed independently. How and why this was attempted will be worth investigating when more information becomes available.
But the applications are obvious: an aware application of what you’re writing and the larger context can make suggestions based on fuzzier concepts like general tone or intent. For example, it may be able to say that you are trying to state the company’s refund policy and automatically suggest the approved standard copy for it. No need to search for the right snippet or consult the style guide. Or he might see that overall the piece uses more technical jargon or jargon than is generally appreciated, and recommend redrafting entire paragraphs into simpler language.
Either way, the company is looking to continue expanding and recruiting staff, which is expected to contribute $21 million. The round was led by Insight Partners, with a very long list of other participants: Gradient Ventures, the Todd and Rahul Angel Fund, Scott Belsky, Oliver Jay, Jack Altman, Allison Pickens, Packy McCormick, Lenny Rachitsky, Austin Rief, Ankur Nagpal, Alex MacCaw, Camille Ricketts, Vivek Sodera, Julia Lipton and James Beshara.
Keep an eye out for more information on Writer’s linguistic AI ambitions.