3 ways to get ChatGPT to write like you

Everyone wants their writing to be unique, so constantly fixing generic AI outputs to match your voice can be frustrating. The question is, can we speed up this process?

I turned to best-selling professional ghostwriter Jessa Gamble to bring her expertise to this challenging task, since it's her job, as she describes it, to "make that unique voice come through in the writing."

We tried three different methods to generate text in a specific voice – and evaluated how well they worked.

Here are our results.

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1. Using a writing sample

Our first approach was to feed ChatGPT an excerpt of existing text and ask ChatGPT to write about a topic in the same style as the example given. 

Luck was on our side, as Jessa came equipped with a full book she'd ghostwritten for a Texas-based private equity investor. We selected around three pages of text (approximately 1600 words) to use as an example in our first trial. AI tools can only process a limited amount of information, so you’ll want to choose a manageable section of text based on the context window of the tool you're using.

We were off to a good start. The results were impressive, and Jessa picked out full sentences that she felt were close to what she would herself write in her client's voice: "This is good: ‘They're not just numbers on a payroll sheet.’"

Not only that, but ChatGPT even came up with resonant phrases that were not in the sample text: "Preserving your legacy. Oh my God, we use that. We use that phrase."

The length of our writing sample turned out to be important: When we tried using a smaller single-paragraph sample, the results fell short. 

This didn't surprise Jessa. "Voice doesn't actually come across in a single paragraph. Because a single paragraph by definition is only like 100 words, so you don't know what words are in the lexicon of this person.  For this type of assignment, you really need volume because it's about pattern recognition."

Jessa had a book to work from, but what if you don't? No problem. This was exactly Jessa's client's situation: "He didn't have much writing before I came on the scene. He leaned on a lot of presentations."

If you don't have any written content, use transcripts of speeches or conversations instead. ChatGPT can even help to clean up those transcripts.

Prompt template using a writing sample

Write a [type of output eg: blog article, keynote presentation, essay] on the following topic: [Your key points]

Write the text in the following style: [Insert your writing]

2. Using a bio

Another way ChatGPT can be nudged toward your writing style is by providing some information about yourself. As Jessa framed it: "You have a proprietary data set, which is your autobiography." 

This could include perspectives, terminology unique to your expertise, or any relevant autobiographical information. Think about your experiences, viewpoints, or special terms you use. 

Unless specifically guided otherwise, the AI may weave these details into the text, so you'll have to decide whether or not that's what you want.

In our experiment, we shared the client's occupation (a private equity investor and former company CEO), location (Texas), significant life experiences (served in the Army Rangers), and personality traits (wise, intelligent, critical thinker, straightforward, supportive).

With this approach, ChatGPT heavily relied on stereotypes, opening with the cliché "Howdy there, partner." and sprinkling autobiographical elements such as "I'm a Texan, born and bred." into the text.

Still, we admired how the AI integrated the autobiographical details into the subject matter. For example, an untouched paragraph reads: "The Army Rangers taught me that the mission is only successful when the whole unit comes out on top. Just like those high-stake missions, selling a business is a critical operation where you're the commanding officer. Your job isn't just to extract maximum profits but to secure a favorable future for your troops, your employees."  In response, Jessa remarked: "It really is imaginative enough that it can come up with [this]."

We both appreciated the AI's inclusion of specific idioms tied to the bio: "I don't even know what 'this old Ranger has got your six' means,” Jessa said. “But I bet Rangers know!". (It turns out it translates to "I've got your back," a fitting conclusion for the generated piece.)

Even though we found the stereotypes tended to be too strong in most places and the piece would require quite a bit of editing, there were a lot of gems too. 

"An interesting thing to me about this is the emotion that you experience as you read it,” Jessa said. “You get these twinges of embarrassment that come from a poor word choice that it makes, and you get this exhilaration when it hits on something real…I would die before I would send ‘howdy partner’ to somebody else. So in that way it's doing a combination of failing and succeeding, but the success is so eerie."

Prompt template using a bio: 

Please write [desired output] on the following topic: [topic]

Write the text from the perspective of the following person talking to [audience]:
- [Profession]
- [Regional location]
- [Key experiences]
- [Personality traits]

[Optional: if you don't want ChatGPT to make explicit reference to the biographical details] Only use the information about the writer to inform the style but don't make explicit reference to any of it.

3. Describing the voice 

As a seasoned ghostwriter, Jessa often contemplates the unique characteristics of the voice she employs for her clients: "It needs to sound a certain way. It's very much a conscious choice."

Factors like vocabulary, sentence structure, tone, and other unique traits are all critical pieces.

We incorporated ten descriptive words that Jessa felt described her client's voice, including "direct" and "in the tone of an advisor," into the initial prompt to capture it. 

If you’re struggling to define your voice, you can ask ChatGPT for its analysis. We experimented with both Jessa's description and ChatGPT's and both were fairly close in quality. 

Be prepared to fine-tune your description for accurate results, though. "The point is, it's not a mind reader. It's really taken the conversational part to heart." After re-running, the output left both of us marveling. "It's so brilliant, this thing. Oh my god, I love this," Jessa said.

That said, you might need to change your prompt depending on the nature of the communication. "Everybody's voice changes depending on what they're talking about." So, explaining a concept and narrating a personal story would demand different voices. As a result, your voice description should closely match the output style you’re looking for.

Prompt template to get descriptors for a voice:

Write a series of descriptors that describe the vocabulary, sentence structure, tone, and any other distinctive characteristics of the following text:

[insert text]

Prompt template to use descriptors for a voice:

Please write [desired output] on the following topic:

[topic] 


Write the text in the following voice:

[Use descriptors for ChatGPT or write your own list]

What's the best way?

In our tests, we found that specifically describing the voice we wanted ChatGPT to emulate gave the best results. But the work still requires human intervention: "In each of these cases, I would use this to pluck passages, as opposed to publishing it wholesale. It's just a different process that we're going to be developing as writers working with this thing."

As you continue to collaborate with AI in your writing journey, you’ll continue to learn how to use the tools effectively for your use cases. So, don't shy away from trying different approaches. 

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