There's no need to learn how to write polite emails any more – Google does it for you

Google Help Me Write slide, onstage at Google I/O
(Image credit: Google)

Google's annual show, Google I/O has me more than a little worried. Why? Because my USP as a journalist is, well (*kicks imaginary stone along the floor*) kinda having a way with words, and it seems that this particular skill is becoming obsolete. 

Help Me Write is here now – or it will be soon enough. The just-unveiled feature uses Google's updated generative AI, but is also built on the 2017 Smart Reply (those short "sounds great, thanks!" responses you can select with just a click within Gmail) then Smart Compose, which has led to the sorcery we're seeing today. 

Picture the scene: your flight got canceled and the airline is more than willing to offer you a voucher, but there's been no sniff of a refund in the communication. Oh, no no no, big airline company! I can already feel my fingers start to twitch, ready to dance across my MacBook Pro keyboard. 

Only, now it seems my effort – OK I'll admit it, my thinly veiled joy – is surplus to requirements. No need. Google's got this. Have a little scroll through the gallery below. 

As you can see, simply by typing "ask for a refund for this canceled flight" in the text box (which opens up when you click the little magic wand icon), Google is more than willing to do the rest. You've written eight words; you're about to get an email opus – and it'll even conveniently pull in useful info (flight details, times) from previous correspondence! 

Oh, and if you think Google's response is either too blunt or not blunt enough, go ahead and refine it by selecting between "formalize", "elaborate", "shorten" or "I'm feeling lucky" and it'll make you sound more polite or angry, depending on how you want to come across. Grammarly, eat your heart out. 

Opinion: Google claims it focuses on boosting our creativity, but surely this renders creative thought pointless 

Google Help Me Write Gmail image onstage at Google I/O 2023

(Image credit: Google)

Why agonize over "best", "kind regards" or "yours faithfully" ever again? Google went with "sincerely" in the email above and I'm sure there's not a child of sixth-grade age in the world that would go against the massive search engine and work suite. 

In its I/O keynote, Google claimed the second pillar of its ethos when designing and devising all of this was to "boost creativity and productivity" but I'd argue that here, human creation, production, consideration and thought has been all but canceled – you don't need it. 

That's far from the end of the story. Google is using AI within its workspace to generate job ads, children's stories, haikus and more. While I appreciate the innovation, I can't help feeling it's all too easy. I actually like flexing my writing muscles. I think children and young people need to learn interactive skills such as written politeness rather than having it auto-generated for them. 

Help Me Write will start rolling out as part of Google's Workspace updates, and although I personally will choose not to use it or to use it very sparingly, I do worry about stifling any budding talent or aptitude for writing in generations younger than me. 

I can hear the conversations between myself and my sister as teenagers, replying to a part-time waitressing job advert on Friday afternoon after another trying day in retail. A teenage 2023 me might say, "Why are you wasting time? Just do it in Help Me Write and let's go!" 

As it is, I have had to actively think, mull over and carefully select the words, phrases, wording, cadence, and prose I've been putting out into the world for some time – I still do. And I just don't think I'd be up to snuff as a writer if I'd had 20 years of auto-generation. 

Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.