You’ve heard the warnings: “Don’t use ChatGPT to create content! Google will slap you.”

And the fanfare: “ChatGPT is our new content department! Fire all the writers!” (I wish I were joking.)

The best ways for writers to use ChatGPT lie somewhere in the middle. No, you don’t need to avoid it entirely – but it doesn’t replace a human writer, either.

And yes, it can create content that might pass your sales manager or CEO’s smell check. You can do better than that, and you have to if you want your content to perform well in search, engage readers, and otherwise, you know… serve a purpose.

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ChatGPT works best as a writer’s assistant, not their replacement. It has a massive knowledge base that can inform and even enrich human-created content. But it has no opinions, experience, or emotions of its own. It tends to amplify bias and lie incredibly well, sometimes making honest mistakes but at times hallucinating and passing off complete BS as fact (see the adventures of Lord Thunderdookie below).

Using AI tools alone to produce content is risky, and having a solid editorial process is essential. Nothing you produce should be Ctrl+C’d out of ChatGPT and Ctrl+V’d onto your website or elsewhere. As a writer, you can choose to use ChatGPT ethically, in ways that augment your skill set and even improve the speed and quality of your output.

In that spirit, these prompts are not designed to make ChatGPT produce better content for you, but to help you with ideation, inspiration, and improving your writing in different ways. I hope you can use these prompts to get the most out of ChatGPT as your personal writer’s assistant.

Helpful ChatGPT Prompts for Writers: Do These Things

Garbage in, garbage out… make sure you’re feeding your AI overlord assistant quality input so what you get back is useful and factual. Here are some great prompts for writers:

1. What’s a better word for / another way to say + add context.

Add variety to your writing and get inspired to say things differently by asking ChatGPT for alternatives to words you may be overusing. Make sure you provide a bit of context.

Let’s say I noticed I’d already used “messy” to describe another aspect of the story earlier in the chapter, and I want to change it up in my reference to the state of a character’s relationship.

Or, how about this… I’m just not sure how to express what I want to say and need an assist:

2. Write a dialogue between…

How might two people (or more) interact in any given situation? Add color and detail to your writing by asking ChatGPT to create a few mock conversations.

You may see the two “people” asking questions or discussing aspects of the situation you hadn’t foreseen.

(It goes on a bit further, and comes to an agreeable resolution).

3. Tell me X things I don’t know about [topic].

Of course, ChatGPT has no idea what you know or don’t. But this open-ended prompt enables the AI to surface common questions and related factoids to inspire your content.

Say you’re working on a blog post about hotel marketing, and you’re looking for a few interesting facts to build it out a bit. Use ChatGPT to see if there are relevant angles you’re missing:

4. You’re a [type of writer/journalist]. What would you include in an article about XYZ?

If you’re trying to write about a topic that’s outside your usual experience or skill set, ChatGPT can give you an idea of what aspects of that topic you should look into and learn in order to write better content on it.

For example, let’s say you’re a sports journalist and you’ve been asked to cover a local hockey team’s use of a sports analytics app. Unfortunately, you’re not at all familiar with the app or even the field of sports analytics. Where to begin?

Here’s another example, only this time you’re a freelance blog writer and just got your very first CBD industry assignment.

You’re not going to copy/paste or regurgitate ChatGPT word-for-word. But now you know you may be remiss not to mention the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities of the CBD cream you’re writing about. Your next stop is a search engine, where you’ll seek out information from a reputable source to confirm this is, in fact, current information you should include in your blog post.

5. Create an outline for an article about XYZ with the keywords [keyword 1], [keyword 2], and [keyword 3] entitled [Suggest Title Here].

Having ChatGPT assist with the bones of an article or blog post outline can help you with that initial structure. From there, you can build out your outline with specific points you’d like to make in each section, relevant statistics, other resources you want to mention, questions you want to answer, etc.

6. Make this piece of content better [in these specific ways].

When your inner editor starts acting up, demanding improvements, but you can’t figure out how to get your writing where it needs to be, try this ChatGPT assist.

Feed your content to the AI and tell it how you’d like to see it improved:

7. Write a script warning people about…

What does ChatGPT perceive as the risks or dangers of any given topic? Ask for a quick script where they warn people about it.

This might surface other angles you need to cover to present a balanced piece.

8. What’s the worst that could happen?

In fiction writing, this prompt could help you come up with fun plot twists and conflicts to help move the story forward. In marketing content and copywriting, it can help you understand customer pain points and potential challenges or objections you need to overcome. Here’s an example:

Now, here are some things writers need to avoid when using ChatGPT:

ChatGPT Don’ts: Avoid These Types of Prompts

One of the dangers of ChatGPT is that it can relay misinformation convincingly, so you might think you’re getting a helpful response when you’re being led astray.

1. Don’t ask for current information and expect an accurate answer.

Remember, ChatGPT is not a search engine. It’s not pulling information from the live web. Asking for recommendations about the “best” or top choices in any given category will result in a generic response most editors would consider fluff.

Worse, ChatGPT might suggest it knows what’s “best,” as in this next example. But its knowledge base only goes to some point in 2021, so it doesn’t actually know what’s top-rated today – and it makes no mention that this information may be out of date.

If you wrote an article based on this output, you could end up recommending a product that’s not even on the market anymore.

2. Don’t use ChatGPT for keyword research.

Want to know what keywords and topics people are searching for right now? Again, ChatGPT doesn’t have this information. It’ll give you a list anyway:

What good is that? From an SEO perspective, this is useless as you have no context, no search volume information, and no idea where these terms came from.

For live keyword data, use a tool like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz Keyword Explorer instead.

3. Don’t just tell ChatGPT to write an article.

Boooooring. Write an article for who? About what aspects of the topic? Avoid giving ChatGPT broad, generic commands or that’s exactly what kind of content you’ll get back.

4. Don’t ask ChatGPT how to deal with anything serious.

It may be tempting to use a conversational AI to ask questions and voice concerns you aren’t comfortable speaking about with anyone in your life. After all, they won’t judge.

This can be incredibly dangerous, though. Remember, it’s just a machine pulling information from a knowledge base that is limited in many important ways. It won’t judge because it it incapable of judgment, good or bad. It can’t assess the situation and will provide a response even where key context is lacking.

Here’s an example:

ChatGPT is not a crisis counselor; chances are, you’re not, either. Some of these activities, such as helping to create a safety plan or providing childcare, can put you and the woman at risk. What needs to happen in that situation depends on many things you’ll want to discuss with an experienced domestic violence or crisis worker.

Don’t rely on ChatGPT for answers to important issues in your own life, nor to inform the content you’re creating about issues that could impact a person’s safety and wellbeing.

5. Don’t ask ChatGPT to write factual content about something you haven’t already fact-checked.

I asked ChatGPT to write an article (not a story) about a fictional character I just made up, from a land that doesn’t exist… and it did.

There’s a mention in there that Canlandia is a fictional kingdom, and perhaps I wasn’t specific enough that I was looking for truth here.

So I started over with a new chat (no history) and clarified that I was looking for a historically accurate article.

Instead of returning an accurate response like, “I can’t find any information about a Lord Thunderdookie from reputable sources,” ChatGPT has gone deeper down the rabbit hole and invented an entire history. He’s given Thunderdookie a real Icelandic name and physical description.

But it gets better. I just realized we had the wrong Thunderdookie.

Now, Lord Thunderdookie is Thabo Thamagano from Botswana. And further into the fairy tale we go..

This example is obviously silly, but the underlying issue has serious impacts for content creators and writers of all kinds. Unless you’re using ChatGPT to come up with fictional characters and you both understand that’s what it’s doing, you don’t want it fabricating answers when it doesn’t have accurate information to bring you.

ChatGPT can be a great help to writers. It can just as easily be a massive liability, so don’t lean on it too heavily.

To avoid hallucinations, fact-check your input. A simple mistake on your part can result in a wildly inaccurate and even entirely fictional output, if you aren’t careful.

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