ChatGPT and Writing


I started paying attention to chatter about artificial intelligence and writing late last year. I was reading a post about it by a blogger I follow. It turned out, he’d had ChatGPT write his column for him and, at the end, said something like, “the software wrote all the material ‘above’ for me. Isn’t it great?”

Umm, no. It wasn’t.

I’m not going to name the blogger here because I don’t want to embarrass him, but I strongly disagreed with his conclusion. The post written by ChatGPT had no personality and no story-telling. It offered nothing but fact after relentless fact. It was as dry as unbuttered toast. But, wait a second. I’m not just going to dump on ChatGPT. I think it also has elements of value. So let me share those with you, too.

How to use ChatGPT

First, if you’ve never tried ChatGPT, give it a whirl. To start using it, you’ll need a no-cost account with OpenAI.

The benefits

As an AI language model, ChatGPT has several benefits when it comes to writing:

  • Speed: ChatGPT can generate text quickly, allowing you to write faster and be more productive.
  • Inspiration: If you're struggling to come up with ideas for your writing, ChatGPT can provide you with suggestions and prompts to get you started.
  • Quality: ChatGPT has been trained on a vast amount of text data and can produce writing that is grammatically correct and coherent.
  • Variety: ChatGPT can generate text in different styles, tones, and voices, giving you the flexibility to choose the type of writing that best fits your needs.
  • Efficiency: ChatGPT can assist with tasks such as summarizing articles or research papers, reducing the time and effort needed for these tasks.

Overall, using ChatGPT as a writing tool can enhance your writing process and help you produce high-quality content more efficiently.

But to give you a better sense of how ChatGPT for writers can be coached to perform better, let me show you how it answered when I gave it slightly more explicit instructions.

Text by: Anastasia Spyropoulou

Here, for example, is what the software told me when I asked it to tell me about the benefits of ChatGPT for writers in the style of Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“Ah, my dear friend, you inquire about the virtues of writing with the wondrous ChatGPT. Allow me to weave for you a tapestry of words that will illuminate the benefits of this remarkable tool.

Firstly, one must consider the speed at which ChatGPT can generate text. With its vast knowledge and nimble processing capabilities, one can write with a swiftness and ease that would make the pens of old quiver with envy.

Furthermore, ChatGPT can serve as a wellspring of inspiration for the weary writer. It can provide prompts and ideas that spark the imagination and lead to the creation of stories and tales that transport the reader to new realms of wonder.

Of course, the quality of the writing produced by ChatGPT is not to be overlooked. The model has been trained on a corpus of text that spans far and wide, allowing it to produce prose that is grammatically sound and stylistically refined.

The variety of writing styles that ChatGPT can emulate is also a boon to the wordsmith. From the weighty language of legal documents to the lyrical poetry of romantic verse, ChatGPT can adapt to any manner of prose with ease.

And let us not forget the efficiency with which ChatGPT can assist with tasks such as summarizing articles and research papers. This allows the writer to focus on the essence of their work and craft prose that is distilled to its most essential form.

In conclusion, my dear friend, the benefits of writing with ChatGPT are manifold. Its speed, inspiration, quality, variety, and efficiency make it a tool that any writer would do well to wield.”

I thought that was fun, if over the top. You can also ask ChatGPT to write in the voice of a doctor, a blue-collar worker, a CEO and a 10-year-old girl. But, concerned about the downsides of artificial intelligence, I asked it to tell me about the risks of ChatGPT as if it were a lawyer. Here’s what it said:

“As a lawyer, it is important to consider the risks associated with any tool, including Chat GPT. While this AI language model can be a powerful writing tool, it is not without potential risks that should be taken into account.

One potential risk is the accuracy and reliability of the information provided. As an AI model, ChatGPT is only as good as the data it has been trained on, and it may not always produce accurate or reliable results. This can be particularly problematic in situations where the accuracy of the information is critical, such as in legal or medical contexts.

Another risk to consider is the potential for plagiarism. If a writer relies too heavily on ChatGPT to generate their work, they may inadvertently produce content that is too similar to existing works, which could lead to accusations of plagiarism.

There are also concerns around privacy and security. When using ChatGPT, a user's data is stored on the servers of the service provider. This data can include sensitive information such as personal details or confidential business information. If this data is not properly secured, it could be vulnerable to hacking or other forms of data breaches.

Lastly, it is important to consider the legal implications of using ChatGPT. Depending on the jurisdiction and the context of the writing, there may be legal issues around the ownership and copyright of the content produced by ChatGPT.

In summary, while ChatGPT can be a useful writing tool, it is important to carefully consider the potential risks associated with its use, including accuracy and reliability, plagiarism, privacy and security, and legal implications. As a lawyer, it is always prudent to exercise caution and due diligence when using any tool or technology.”

Now, let me expand on a couple of the points raised by the ChatGPT legal voice.

With respect to accuracy and reliability: some researchers have found ChatGPT will sometimes produce wildly inaccurate information. If you are ever going to publish (or submit) anything, make sure you have a clear understanding of the facts yourself, first, and carefully edit text produced by ChatGPT, removing any inaccuracies.

With respect to plagiarism: the software does its writing by searching the internet for information written by other people. Obviously, this will result in text that sometimes meets the criteria for plagiarism. If you are a student, freelance writer or a book author, you really don’t want to take the risk of plagiarism for obvious reasons.

With respect to privacy and security: I found ChatGPT’s expression of this concern - with its reference to the need for data to be “properly secured” to be a bit ingenuous. The true concern is that any information you feed to the software (the questions you ask and the information you give it) then becomes part of the software’s bank of knowledge. As does ChatGPT’s answer to you. This reminds me a bit of the way Facebook takes ownership of any photos you post.

But, while I think ChatGPT is a bit of a loaded gun, I don’t think it’s a total waste of time.

Here’s how I suggest using it.

Search for information: It’s more fun and faster to use it for searching than Google. Just type your question into the box and one click will tell you what you want to know, in the style you want to know it. (Remember: you may need to double-check any of the facts you’re not already familiar with.)

Suggested phrasings:

  • Explain how…
  • Give me a list of…
  • Write me a paragraph about…
  • Tell me about…

Make getting started easier: The blank page terrifies many writers. Use ChatGPT to break this logjam and get some words on the page really quickly. When you see how fast the software is able to vomit words onto your screen, it should help you overcome your own reluctance to compose a crappy first draft. 

Play with style: Take a simple question and ask it multiple times, asking for the answers in a different style each time. (Here are some ideas: in the style of… Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Stephen Fry, BBC, USA Today, New York Times.) Reading the text in such a fashion will help you better understand a vocabulary, word choice and writing style you may wish to emulate.

When it comes down to it, ChatGPT is nothing more than another writing tool. It may be faster and more powerful than your pen or keyboard, but it’s still only a tool. Use it to help yourself but understand that you still need to do some substantial work to make your final product worth publishing.

ELT News

ELT News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *