Oct 6, 2021 3 min read

What is NLP? A Quick Guide

What is NLP? A Quick Guide

It's easy to get sucked into the fascinating wormhole of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

There are hundreds of unique tasks and processes that are being improved by AI every day. So how can you choose one topic?

We have a specific obsession with Natural Language Processing (NLP). It has the potential to impact the world for good.

But before you can understand how NLP serves humanity, you'll first need to know what it is.

So, what is NLP?

At a basic level, NLP lets us use our computers and other devices to work with spoken or written language.

And we're not talking about computers that understand programming languages.

We had that already.

We're talking about understanding spoken or written language naturally. Hence the name "Natural Language Processing."

The goal of NLP is to model the essential characteristics of human language.

We need to be able understand, interpret, translate, and produce language in a computer.

NLP techniques transform texts from one form to another.


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How is NLP used?

This all gets confusing fast though.

Let's reframe and find some real-world examples.

Customer Support

Companies spend a ton of time and energy making sure their customers are happy.

Hiring amazing customer support agents is expensive.

Because AI can use NLP to understand human language, it can:

  • classify support tickets for you
  • assign them to the most knowledgeable agent for that question
  • give  answers without any help needed from an agent

This gives customer support agents an opportunity to:

  • create processes
  • document things better
  • automate parts of their jobs
  • spend less time in the weeds with every customer

For the customer, it can reduce response times and give help much faster.

Content Writing (Blogs, Landing Pages, and more)

Natural Language Processing isn't meant to replace humans in the writing process.

It doesn't have that same level of creativity and passion as a human has. We're trying to get as close as possible, but we're not there.

NLP gives us a chance to spend less time staring at blank pages. This means we spend more time deciding what content is worth publishing.

In fact, I'm using our own flavor of NLP (link to https://copy.ai) to write this blog post right now!

It helped me come up with:

  • a blog outline
  • some of the wording
  • reducing the amount of technical research needed

Out of the 50 different ideas our AI generated for me, I used about 10 of them.

I transformed those ideas into my own unique wording and personality. Then I frankensteined them into a blog post.

So, I wrote this entire 750 word blog post in a little over an hour with no prior planning or research.

Just a little Natural Language Processing... and BOOM. 🤯

Spam Filtering and Blocking

Speaking of topics our AI suggested I write about, have you ever dealt with spam filtering?

It's a very difficult problem.

The purpose of a Spam Filter is to cut any unwanted emails, comments, or posts.

To do that, we have to learn what spam looks like and then compare each email against that learned data.

For a human, this process would be beyond arduous.

But we've been beyond humans doing this particular work for quite a while now.

Instead, we've had a long list of spam flags, such as:

  • "if there are more than X number of links per Y number of words, it's spam"
  • "if the words 'Make Money Fast Online' are in it more than once, it's spam..."

But even that list produces both a large amount of false negatives and false positives. We're trying to filter through billions of pieces of content across the internet.

The key is to use NLP to get good at flagging the right content as spam.

The more accurate our filters become, the fewer false outcomes we end up with.

We do this by training with huge amounts of data.

That means fewer emails getting sent to your spam folder.

If you didn't understand anything else...

Remember that NLP is how computers use human language to:

  • understand
  • analyze
  • communicate

Using NLP to generate content for you is magical the first time you see it in action.

You can start a 7-day free trial at copy.ai and experience it for yourself today!


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Dustin McCaffree
Dustin McCaffree
Senior Engineer @ Copy.ai
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