ChatGPT is the McDonald's of English

· 2 min read

In theory, you could use ChatGPT to become a better writer. But this is just as realistic as going to McDonald’s to order a salad.1 It just doesn’t work like that; both of these things encourage you to become lazy and are unhealthy for you.

If you’re unwilling to be creative and use ChatGPT to write formal emails, one pagers, performance reviews, or other important documents, you weaken your imagination and reasoning skills. Writing isn’t the result of thinking; it is thinking. When you delegate your writing to ChatGPT, who does the thinking?2

Writing well exercises your ability to do two things: thinking to completion and thinking with concision. You need to infiltrate your own argument to discover any logical gaps. Then you should find the least amount of words necessary to express your argument.

ChatGPT, especially its free-to-use version, often fails to achieve either. For instance, if you ask it to write something substantial around a few sparse bullet points, it leans too heavily on your prompt. If your premise was flawed or contained mistakes, so will ChatGPT’s output. And since people prompt ChatGPT with awful instructions such as "rewrite this into super detailed professional tone," you’ll get verbose, fast food-style English.

This boring behavior is apparent by design, since ChatGPT is running a model that just infers its next word by calculating what came before and selecting the most probable result. It dulls any unique writing to sound like the training data it inherited.

ChatGPT is quite good at tasks which involve reducing content, such as summarization. But if you’re looking to create something new and wish to become a better writer, then you should avoid using ChatGPT to do the hard work for you. It does not merely make you sound unoriginal (“let’s delve into this topic”, “this underscores the importance of…”, “I hope this email finds you well”), it actually makes you unoriginal.


notebooks are McDonalds of code by Vitaly Kurin (@yobibyte)


Quick sidenote: ChatGPT is not the only tool guilty of inhibiting writing. For instance, PowerPoint has a knack for letting people disguise bad writing with bullet points, with the bullet points themselves disguising the bad thinking beneath.

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