5 ways to make AI your writing partner

by Ralph Grayden
15 March 2024

I’ve been a professional writer for more than 20 years, and I’m an open user. I freely admit to anyone who’ll listen that I now write using ChatGPT.

In fact, since the large language model (LLM) came into our consciousness in November 2022, I’ve been experimenting with it relentlessly. In the process, I’ve written a book on how to write with AI and taught thousands of people how to use it to become more efficient and better writers. 

As a writer, you’ll know there’s a lot more to writing than just putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. There’s the idea generation, the research, the planning, the editing—the stuff that we don’t necessarily get paid for but without which we’d also produce very bad words.

And it’s in these tasks that ChatGPT can help you become even better at your craft. In the process, it can take away some of the pain involved in writing and let you focus on what you’re best at – producing good words.

That’s why I see ChatGPT and other AI writing programs as potential writing partners rather than threats to our existence.

With that in mind, here are six ways I think every writer should be using ChatGPT right now to help improve their writing.

1. Brainstorming

Coming up with a good idea is probably the hardest part of the writing process. But if you’re a freelance journalist, copywriter, or content marketer, it’s fundamental to putting food on the table.

At Antelope Media (my agency), we know all too well the stress and performance anxiety that can come with having to present endless ideas to clients. But since ChatGPT came out, we’ve had another voice in the room, one that can produce tens, hundreds, thousands of ideas in just seconds.

Now, not all of those ideas are good ones. Most are downright lousy. But that’s how idea generation works. You’re lucky if one in ten has legs, and you never get to the perfect idea without refining it first.

To get ChatGPT working for you, ask it for an angle (or five), a contrarian view, something outlandish, or ideas that no one has written about before. Then, work with it to polish them and make them your own.

With a bit of input from your end, you’re likely to explore directions you never would have otherwise.

2. Research

ChatGPT has a well-documented history of inventing its own facts. (OpenAI freely admits that it lies.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in your research. 

I say this for a couple of reasons.  First, a lot of the news-making examples of ChatGPT getting lazy people into trouble (like the lawyer who presented its made-up cases in court) involved earlier and less developed iterations of the LLM. The latest version, ChatGPT-4 can actually search the internet and provides citations that you can check out for yourself.

Second, as a professional writer, you’re committed to quality, and you’re going to do your own research anyway. Where ChatGPT can help is in confirming or disputing the sources you find. Ask it if your information is correct, and why. Ask it if there’s another point of view that you should include and what it is. And ask it if there are gaps in your work that further research could help you overcome.

3. Summarising

Most types of writing are built on source material: interviews, articles, reports, surveys or data. It’s what gives an article substance and depth. But how often do we read through an entire – or almost an entire – source document only to find it adds nothing to our angle?

ChatGPT can cut down your wasted time enormously by summarising documents and pinpointing information for you.

Copy and paste, or upload a document and ask ChatGPT whether it says anything about “x”. Ask what’s interesting in the document and why. Give it two documents to compare, then ask it to highlight the similarities and differences between their arguments and which is more convincing.

4. Overcoming writer’s block

Writer’s block can be a deadly curse. But could ChatGPT end writer’s block once and for all?

If there’s one thing ChatGPT really excels at, it’s churning out words. It never feels a lack of confidence about what should come next.

When you’re next stuck halfway through a sentence, ask ChatGPT to finish it for you. Better yet, ask it to finish it in three or five different ways. Ask it to write it in different styles, use different words, come to different conclusions, or emphasise different points.

You don’t have to use the words it gives you, in fact, you probably shouldn’t. But all you need here is a kernel of something that can inspire you to come up with the words you want. And if the writing you get is dire, don’t worry. Often, it’s by seeing what we don’t like that we discover what we do.

5. Editing your work

The writing and editing processes are inseparable. Good writing is good editing, and the best weapon when it comes to editing is always another set of eyes. Unfortunately, that’s not something all writers have had access to – at least not until now. Because now, we have ChatGPT.

Ask ChatGPT to go over what you write. Ask it to analyse your writing’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask it whether you’ve left something out, whether there’s data you should have included, whether there’s a counter-argument you haven’t addressed, or whether you should break your information up with a list or box or some other device.

Ask it to read your writing, suggest better headlines or better ways of expressing things, highlight unnecessary words or passive sentences, improve your flow, or reduce your copy to meet a word limit without changing the meaning.

And because there’s nothing that makes us writers look more unprofessional than typos, ask it to find and correct them before you turn your work in.

Your new writing partner

In short, I think all writers should use ChatGPT in every stage of the writing process, but not as a replacement for our own skills. Instead, we should see it as a writing partner that can enhance our creativity, make us more efficient, and ultimately help us deliver a better final product.  

Want to learn more about how to use ChatGPT as your writing partner? Ralph’s webinar “ChatGPT Bootcamp for Writers” is on Wednesday, 10 April 2024, at 12.30pm EST.  Get your ticket now

Ralph Grayden
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