It’s been hard to miss: the launch of ChatGPT, a chat interface based on GPT-3. Give it any prompt, and it gives you a response that’s hard to distinguish from human-written material. It can output sentences, rewrites, or entire texts. How can ChatGPT benefit your academic writing? And how does it differ from Writefull?

  1. The type of model: language editing (Writefull) vs. text generation (ChatGPT)

    ChatGPT and Writefull are very different in nature. ChatGPT is a so-called ‘large language model’, that can generate text for any type of task. You can use it to output ideas, challenge an argument, develop software, create exam questions, write essays, and much more.

    This isn’t the case for Writefull. Writefull offers language models developed to help with specific tasks: to copyedit, proofread, paraphrase, generate abstracts or titles, or make sentences academic. These models were trained and vetted for these tasks, and tailored to research writing.

  2. How to use: predefined (Writefull) or prompt-based (ChatGPT)

    As ChatGPT is generic, it needs prompts. For example, to help you write a sentence, you could give it the prompt ‘Complete the following sentence: …’, and see what it comes up with. This allows for great flexibility: it can help you with any part of the writing process you find difficult! Be careful, though, that you craft a prompt that works well for an academic text, and that the output doesn’t change your message.

    Writefull doesn’t work with prompts: it offers a predefined set of features, like copyediting, which you use within Word or Overleaf. In ChatGPT terms, it always uses the same ‘prompts’. This makes Writefull less flexible, but also much more tailored to a set of tasks and to the norms of academic writing.

  3. Language editing quality: tailored (Writefull) or generic (ChatGPT)

    Like Writefull, you can use ChatGPT to copyedit or proofread your text. For example, you could ask it to ‘fix the grammar errors’ in a sentence. This particular prompt works well if you want to fix common errors, like the misuse of prepositions, so it's great if you want a quick check on a paragraph that is well-written - like Grammarly would offer. However, if you think your text needs more editing, or if it’s technical or scientific (think: a research paper), Writefull’s tailored language models will give you better feedback.

About the author

Hilde is Chief Applied Linguist at Writefull.