ChatGPT is a remarkable new chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to answer any question you pose. It’s a powerful free digital assistant for research or writing. Read on for how it works, seven ways to use it for writing, and five related resources.
🤖 How it works
ChatGPT is basically an advanced computer program that’s been fed millions of documents, books, sites, and other research material. The program uses those resources to train itself to summarize, analyze, communicate creatively and answer questions.
🤯 Exploding popularity
More than a million people have posed questions since OpenAI launched ChatGPT on November 30, 2022. A pro version is already on the way.
⚙️ What to use it for
It’s most powerful when you ask it to generate examples, outlines, explanations, summaries, or connections between ideas.
🚫 What not to use it for
The current version has no information on contemporary events.
It’s been used to plagiarize and cheat. Google, Wikipedia and other research tools can likewise be abused, but ChatGPT-generated text is harder to identify because replies are created anew each time, not copied from elsewhere online.
OpenAI has a ChatGPT detector to help detect blatant plagiarism.
A Princeton student created GPTZero for teachers to detect AI plagiarism.
The NYTimes’s Kevin Roose urged teachers to harness ChatGPT’s educational potential.
🔗 4 recommended ChatGPT resources
The Art of ChatGPT Prompting: A Guide to Crafting Clear and Effective Prompts. This free e-book acts a useful guide for beginners.
Collection of ChatGPT Resources Use ChatGPT in Google Docs, WhatsApp, as a desktop app, with your voice, or in other ways with this running list of tools.
Awesome ChatGPT prompts Dozens of clever pre-written prompts you can use to initiate your own conversations with ChatGPT to get it to reply as a fallacy finder or a journal reviewer or whatever else.
Writing for Renegades - Co-writing with AI This free 17-page resource has writing exercises you can try with ChatGPT. It also includes interesting nuggets, like Wycliffe A. Hill’s 1936 attempt at writing automation, Plot Genie.
🖥️ 7 ways to use ChatGPT
1. Diminish blind spots
By asking ChatGPT for reasons why something may NOT be the case, or about arguments we haven’t considered, we can counteract our natural biases.
Example: “In making the case that The Wire was one of the great TV dramas, I’m arguing that X, Y and Z. What might someone who disagrees with me say?”
2. Cut the flab
Most of us should cut much of what we write. ChatGPT can help you cut excess words, phrases and sentences, like a helpful copyeditor.
Example language: “Suggest three ways to rewrite this paragraph in a more concise, compact way.” (Then select suggested edits that resonate with you.)
For more on why cutting flab is crucial to quality writing, read The Elements of Style, On Writing Well, and How to Write Short.
3. Consider pros and cons
ChatGPT can generate pro and con lists that quickly provide you an overview of arguments and counterarguments.
Example: “What are the pros and cons of using an AI assistant like ChatGPT to strengthen your writing?”
4. Strengthen your headline or subject line
A crummy header may stop readers from getting to your substance. ChatGPT can suggest a bunch of headlines or email subject lines that you can choose from.
Example: “What are five compelling headlines that would work well for the following text”
5. Inject a dose of humor
Writers have asked ChatGPT to do all sorts of silly things. Beyond those zany antics, ChatGPT can provide a little smile for readers if you ask it to apply an unexpected style, like explaining the tragic demise of Shakespeare’s Ophelia with a rap written from the perspective of her dog.
Example: “Spotlight the most creative 19th century Japanese ceramic artists in lyrics for a rhyming country song.”
6. Give readers a summary
Generate a draft summary of a long piece of writing. Then edit it to ensure it conveys your primary message successfully.
Example: “Generate a five-sentence (or whatever length) summary of the following text in language suitable for a professional readership” (or graduate level or first-grade or language learners or whatever other level).
7. Probe your own thoughts
Use ChatGPT in conversation to flesh out your own thinking. Just as a good teacher uses Socratic dialogue to help you draw out your own ideas, ChatGPT can be instructed to address you from a particular perspective. You can ask it to lead you in a discussion of the primary issues related to whatever you’re writing about.
Example: Dan Shipper wrote GPT-3 is the best journal I’ve ever used about using the OpenAI Playground, a free service for testing out AI prompts, to initiate a dialogue with language such as: “You are Socrates, please help me with an issue in my life. Please ask me questions to try to understand what my issue is and help me unpack it. You can start the conversation however you feel is best.”
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👋 One more thing…
I’m announcing a brand new addition to my Substack publication: the Wonder Tools reader chat. Unlike ChatGPT, this is a human chat.
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Thanks for the pragmatic take on ChatGPT. A nice balance to the panic in academia. Constructive engagement balanced with defensive measures.
Best newsletter of all in my inbox. Constructive and good humored. No bullshit lingo. Happy birthday.