Better ways to use ChatGPT

Reading time: About 4 minutes

Don’t use artificial intelligence to write for you. Instead, get it to help you write more easily. There really are better ways to use ChatGPT….

I’m a longtime fan of the writer and psychologist Angela Duckworth — ever since the publication of her 2016 book Grit.

But even the smartest people can sometimes be ill-informed. When listening to Duckworth’s podcast — it’s called No Stupid Questions — I learned she is currently feeding the first draft of her next book to ChatGPT for editing.

Noooooooo, I wanted to tell her. Don’t do that!

If her publisher was listening to the podcast, I’m sure they were equally horrified.

First, her big-name publisher will almost certainly provide a well-qualified editor, at no cost to her. But second, and more important, she’s taking a huge risk by making her new work available to the robots of ChatGPT.

Now, I am neither wholly opposed to nor entirely in favour of ChatGPT. Instead, I think it’s a tool you can use to help yourself.

But you need to use it carefully. Like a super sharp chef’s blade. Or an axe. Or a bandsaw.

Don’t feed it any of your unpublished stuff. Ever. Not for editing. Not for outlining. Not for doing anything. The legality of who owns your material once you share it with ChatGPT is still unclear. I don’t believe it’s worth taking chances with that.

And even if the company doesn’t ultimately try to take ownership of your work, they are certainly using it to train their engines for searching and editing. Do you want your unpublished work put out in the world that way?

I first wrote about ChatGPT earlier this year. In a minute, I’ll give you some new tips, but let’s start by helping the newbies.

If you’ve never tried ChatGPT before, you’ll need a no-cost account with OpenAI.

ChatGPT doesn’t have an app, but it works on most browsers from Chrome to Safari, and you can even use it on your phone’s mobile browser. So, go here and sign up at no charge. To finish your account setup, you’ll need to enter a cellphone number. Once you’ve done that, select “send code.” Then, enter the code you received on your phone. Now you’re ready to begin playing. Just type a question in the box at the bottom of the page.

Here are some of the best ways for writers to use the service:

Get better at using prompts. You can actually have a conversation with the software. Regard it as a friend whose brain you’re picking. For example, when you get an answer from the software, ask it, “Why do you say that?” Or “What else can you tell me about XYZ?” You may be surprised what you learn when you drill down to this level, trying to focus on a more human-like understanding.

Use it to defeat writer’s block. You can use ChatGPT as a kind of writing buddy. Vent to it about your problems and concerns. Ask it for new ideas about where to take your writing project. Ask it for suggestions about what to do next. Brainstorm with it. Picture it as the friend shown in the photograph at the top of this post.

Use it to answer questions. While I have found ChatGPT to be unreliable when it comes to facts, it often has more answers than Google. Earlier this week, I was trying to get the word count of the book Who Moved My Cheese? Google couldn’t say, but ChatGPT told me in two seconds that it was between 11,000 and 12,000 words. While I wouldn’t quote that stat without checking it, it was close enough for my purposes (giving a rough estimate to a client).

Use it to find experts. I just asked it for the names of the best Canadian literary agents. Here is the list it gave me in less than a minute:

  • The Cooke Agency
  • Transatlantic Agency
  • Westwood Creative Artists
  • Cameron Creswell Agency
  • Helen Heller Agency
  • Anne McDermid & Associates

You can see that this is faster and neater than Google. If you’re a freelance writer looking for interview subjects or expertise in a specific arena, ChatGPT should be able to come up with a similar list.

Ask it to develop questions. Speaking of interviews, you don’t want to go into one unprepared. Feed the name of your subject and your topic to ChatGPT and ask the software to come up with a list of questions to ask. (Of course, never conduct an interview by following this list. Always encourage your interview to be more of a conversation than an interrogation. But use the list of questions as something to review both before and during the interview.)

Ask for suggestions for topics to write about. If you’re struggling with what to write about, get some advice from ChatGPT. I just wrote, “I’m a writing coach looking for some good topics for my blog. Any ideas?” It gave me 10 ideas in less than a minute.

Get it to make a list of pros and cons. Trying to figure out whether to do a degree in English at Berkeley or at the University of Southern California? Ask ChatGPT to help you decide. (The biggest pro of Berkeley is its academic prestige, while its biggest con is the high cost of living in the Bay area. The biggest pro of USC is its strong English department, while its biggest con is the cost of it being a private university.)

Let it help you write your resumé or CV. I haven’t used it this way myself, but I’ve heard from several trusted sources that it’s excellent with resumés. Let it help you buff yours, and, even more importantly, get its assistance in writing a cover letter (which should, of course, be different for and specific to each individual job application).

Use it to prepare for a job interview. As a test, I just asked it: “What’s the best way for me to answer a job interview question about my biggest weakness?” It gave a detailed and thoughtful answer to this ridiculous question (for which job hunters must prepare), concluding with an example of a good response.

Here’s what it suggested saying: “One of my weaknesses is that I tend to be overly self-critical, which can occasionally slow down my decision-making process. I’ve noticed this mostly when working on projects with tight deadlines. To address this, I’ve been working on setting specific deadlines for myself and seeking feedback from colleagues to gain more perspective. This has helped me become more decisive. In fact, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my ability to make decisions efficiently and confidently. I believe my ability to self-reflect and adapt is a valuable skill that allows me to continuously improve and contribute effectively to my team.”

Let it summarize already-published work. If you have a long blog post or publication of some sort that you want to summarize for, say, social media, let ChatGPT to do that work for you. Once the work has been published, there should be no risk to you in using it this way.

Some people think ChatGPT can replace all their writing. It can’t. Or at least the writing it can produce will be unspeakably dull.

Other people think ChatGPT will replace writers. I don’t believe that. Instead, it’s far more likely that writers who use ChatGPT will replace writers who don’t.

Use it but use it wisely.


My video podcast last week addressed how to do more efficient research. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a sustainable writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


Do you have any better ways to use ChatGPT? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section, below. And congratulations to Patricia Grasher, the winner of this month’s book prize, for a comment on my blog about how to silence your inner editor. (Please send me your email address, Patricia.) Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Nov. 30/23 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To leave your own comment, please scroll down to the section directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


Scroll to Top