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Artificial Intelligence in Editing

One ChatGPT prompting technique you'll want to try is role-playing. With role-playing, you instruct ChatGPT to take on a persona, such as editor, author, or reader. This approach fine-tunes the AI's responses and gives you more actionable insights and ideas for edits. Plus, it's a prompting method you can use whether you're a copyeditor, developmental editor, line editor, or author coach. Intrigued? Let's dive in!

ChatGPT Role-Playing Prompts: A Guide for Editors. Images shows a retro-futuristic computer with a round display. It's colors are orange and cream.

What Is Prompting?

Before we delve into the role-playing method, let's revisit the basics of "prompting" with ChatGPT. A "prompt" is an instruction you give to ChatGPT to get it to generate a specific response.

For instance, you might use a direct prompt, such as "summarize the following text," followed by a few lengthy paragraphs you want ChatGPT to review. ChatGPT would then offer a concise overview, transforming your bulky text into an easily digestible snippet.

What Is Role-Playing Prompting?

Role-playing prompting is taking the art of question-asking one step further. You're not just requesting information; you're setting a scene and having ChatGPT adopt a role. Imagine writing, "ChatGPT, pretend you're an experienced copyeditor, and I'm a new copyeditor. What should I focus on during my first pass of a novel?"

Why Is Role-Playing Effective?

Contextual Clarity = Focused Feedback: Role-playing prompts provide a layer of context that generic and broad prompts can't. ChatGPT understands the scenario better and responds with more specific, targeted advice. You're essentially customizing the AI's expertise to suit your needs.

Enhanced Creativity: Stepping into different roles stimulates creativity and encourages you (and ChatGPT) to think about a problem from multiple perspectives.

Role-Playing Prompt Format

The formula for a role-playing prompt is super simple and can be broken down into two main pieces:

[Role] + [Direction]

Role: This is where you tell ChatGPT what role to take on. This sets the stage and lets the AI know what persona it should adopt.

Direction: After you've set the role, you'll want to give a task related to that role.

Format Examples

  • Pretend you're a [role]. Provide your top advice on [topic].

  • Act like you're a [role]. Explain how you would handle [situation].

  • You are a [role]. Do this [task].

  • Role-play as a [role]. Assess the following [text].

Role-Playing as Editor, Author, and Reader

Editors may find it most helpful to instruct ChatGPT to take on the personas of "editor," "author," and "reader." Here are starting ideas for using each role.

Role-Play the Editor

If you're dealing with a text that needs better organization, clarity, consistency, or technical refinement, the editor role is your best bet.


Prompt: Act like you're an editor. Explain how you would improve this paragraph for middle-grade readers.

ChatGPT's Answer: As an editor, I'd recommend breaking up the long sentences to improve readability and adding a topic sentence for clarity.

Prompt: You are an editor. Assess whether this argument is well-supported.

ChatGPT's Answer: The argument could be strengthened by adding more data or expert quotes.

Retro-humanoid robot in disguise and wearing a burnt orange trench coat, orange hat, and glasses.

Role-Playing the Author

With the author role, you can get more creative advice. This can be especially useful for author coaches and developmental editors. If you're helping an author flesh out an first draft, role-playing as the author can offer insights into how to build the narrative or argument effectively.


Prompt: Role-play as an author. Tell me what's a good plot twist here.

ChatGPT's Answer: How about revealing that the protagonist's closest ally is actually a double agent?

Prompt: Pretend you are an author. Tell me how I can make this dialogue more realistic.

ChatGPT's Answer: Try using contractions and colloquial language to make the dialogue sound more natural.

Prompt: You are a first-time author who needs gentle and encouraging advice. Write suggestions about the following text in the style and tone you'd want to receive them. Here is the text:

ChatGPT's Answer: First of all, congratulations on taking the brave step of putting your words on paper! Writing is a journey, and you've already taken the first important step. Now, let's take a look at your text together.

Role-Playing the Reader

If you want to understand how a text might be received by its intended audience, use the reader persona. You'll get insights into the text's readability and engagement factors, helping you make reasoned editorial decisions.

Prompt: Act as a new employee. Explain how clear and engaging this edition of our company newsletter is.

ChatGPT's Answer: The newsletter's writing clearly explained upcoming events and updates, but the layout could be more interesting. Consider adding visuals or quotes to break up the text and capture the reader's attention.

Prompt: As a reader, assess whether the lesson was effective.

ChatGPT's Answer: The lesson had a lot of facts. Using anecdotes and examples would help information retention.

The role-playing method with ChatGPT is like having a Swiss Army Knife for editing. It's versatile, it's fun, and it can make your work so much better. So the next time you're stuck on a tricky paragraph and are looking for answers or inspiration, remember—you've got roles to play!

Photo of Erin Servais, a white woman with brown hair and glasses. She is wearing a blue suit. Erin Servais teaches the ChatGPT for Editors course.

Erin Servais is an editor, educator, and community builder. Committed to helping editors improve their work and lives, she serves on the board of directors for ACES: The Society for Editing, is the president of the Editors Tea Club, and offers editor coaching services. Erin has presented about editing, entrepreneurship, and Artificial Intelligence for the Professional Editors Network, Editors Canada, the Northwest Editors Guild, and ACES.

Her current focus is training editors to uplevel their skills using Artificial Intelligence. She teaches the only comprehensive ChatGPT for Editors course on the market. Erin always tells ChatGPT please and thank you, just in case.

Email Erin:

Using ChatGPT centers on the act of writing prompts, which are directions you give ChatGPT to guide its responses. The higher the quality of prompts you feed ChatGPT, the better the work it can do for you.

Editors who want to use ChatGPT to speed up and simplify their work may begin by simply asking ChatGPT to “edit this.” This broad prompt will give you a result of edited text, but the result may have more and different changes than you seek. Instead, giving the AI more directions will allow you to fine-tune the response to be more closely aligned with your goal.

Keep in mind that even with a well-phrased prompt, you will likely need to give ChatGPT follow-up prompts to help it dial in on your specific needs. This will become a routine part of your process.

Text reads: How to Write and Refine ChatGPT Prompts. Text is placed beside an image of a retrofuturistic computer with knobs, a keyboard, and a glass screen.

ChatGPT Prompt-Writing Basics

There are four core best practices for writing an effective ChatGPT prompt. It all comes down to being clear and specific.

1. Use Statements

Format instructions as statements instead of questions. This helps ChatGPT determine what you want it to do.

❌ "Can you write a paragraph explaining first-person point of view?"

🟢 "Write a paragraph explaining first-person point of view."

2. Be Specific

Make your requests detailed. Tell ChatGPT its exact next steps.

❌ "Edit this."

🟢 "Edit this corporate report to improve clarity and consistency and to correct errors of grammar, spelling, and punctuation."

3. Define Format

Specify format requirements in your prompt.

❌ "Write a blog post about the history of singular they."

🟢 "Write a 1,500–word blog post about the history of singular they. Use subheadings and bullet points. Use The Chicago Manual of Style."

4. Provide Context

Include relevant background and nuance. This helps ChatGPT narrow its response.

❌ "Is this a good title?"

🟢 "Considering this is a thriller novel set in Victorian England, is The Shadow's Grasp a fitting title?"

Refining Initial Responses

Even with a well-crafted prompt, the first output from ChatGPT often won’t meet your exact needs. The skillful user engages ChatGPT in a back-and-forth to tweak the initial response.

Here are examples of how to ask ChatGPT to refine its output:

1. Specify Changes

Clearly explain how you want the initial response to be changed.

  • "Refine this response to use title case in headings instead of sentence case."

  • "Change the examples to be relevant to podiatrists."

2. Identify Errors

Being a new technology, ChatGPT requires a bit of patience. It does not respond with accuracy every time. When using it to edit text, this can look like the program not catching every error. When using it to write, this can look like ChatGPT replying with information that is factually incorrect.

Rather than manually correcting errors ChatGPT misses (the whole point is to save you time and wear on your hands), explain the errors and instruct it to fix them.

  • "Refine this response to ensure all numbers 1 through 9 are written as numerals."

  • "Revise by placing the commas before closing quotation marks, not after."

3. Adjust Length

If you prompt ChatGPT to write text and the first response is too long or short, ask it to adjust the length.

  • "Add a section about how about developmental editors can use ChatGPT."

  • "Condense your response into one paragraph."

Try and Try Again

If your attempt to refine ChatGPT’s response still does not give you what you want, keep trying. Rephrase your prompt and try to make your directions more specific. Or open up a new chat and try the original prompt again. ChatGPT won’t answer in the exact same way twice, and sometimes starting with this clean slate is quicker than refining and refining a response that went off the path.

Want to learn more about ChatGPT?

Sign up for the ChatGPT for Editors course.

Erin Servais is an editor, educator, and community builder. She founded the Editors Tea Club, an online space where editors gather for education and support, and she offers editor coaching through her company, Dot and Dash.

In her fifteen years in publishing, she has helped to bring hundreds of titles to print and has presented about editing and entrepreneurship across the United States and Canada. Erin serves on the board of directors for ACES: The Society for Editing.

She always tells ChatGPT please and thank you, just in case.

Email Erin:

Artificial Intelligence is transforming the publishing industry. It's important to know tech jargon to stay relevant and understand the changes happening around you in the editing world.

That's why I've crafted The Editor's AI Dictionary—to demystify AI vocabulary and help you navigate the crossroads of technology and editing. In this guide, we'll break down the core AI terms into easy-to-understand definitions and include real-world examples of AI you likely already use in your everyday life.

Ready to crack the code? Let's dive in.

Artificial Intelligence

Computer systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence, such as understanding natural language, recognizing patterns, and adapting to new situations.

Example: smart thermostat that automatically adjusts temperature


A single AI system

Example: Google’s Bard

Machine Learning

A type of artificial intelligence that allows systems to learn and improve from experience without being programmed with specific instructions.

Example: facial recognition

Neural Network

A computing system inspired by the structure of the human brain. It consists of a collection of nodes, or "neurons," and the connections between them. These networks are key components of many machine learning models and can recognize patterns and relationships in data.

Example: handwriting recognition for check processing

Generative AI

A type of Artificial Intelligence that makes new content by drawing on what it has previously learned from existing content.

Example: Midjourney, which creates an image from a text prompt

(This is what I used to create the computer in the image above.)

Language Model / Large Language Model

A type of Artificial Intelligence model that can understand and generate text in a human-like manner. It learns patterns in language. Then, when given a piece of text, it predicts what comes next. A Large Language Model is trained on a bigger amount of text/information and has a better understanding of nuanced language and reasoning.

Example: predictive text on iPhone texting, ChatGPT

Generative Pretrained Transformer (GPT)

The type of artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT is. “Generative” means it can create data. "Pretrained" means it has already learned from a vast amount of text. "Transformer" means the type of neural network it uses, which is good at understanding relationships between sentences.

Example: ChatGPT


A computer program that lets people talk to a Large Language Model in a conversational manner via text or voice. This often looks like a person asking the chatbot a question, and the chatbot answering with the requested information.

Example: Amazon's Alexa


A piece of text given to a Large Language Model for it to respond to.

Example: “What are the arguments for and against having a rabbit as a pet?”


The text the Large Language Model generates in reply to the prompt.

Example: “Here are the arguments for and against having a rabbit as a pet. Pro: 1) They don’t require walks...”


When a chatbot answers with false information.

Example: an attorney who asked ChatGPT for legal cases, which he then used in court filings, not knowing ChatGPT invented the cases and they did not exist

Erin Servais helps editors upskill through AI. Her AI for Editors course is known worldwide as the #1 AI course for editors of all types, including medical editors, finance editors, education editors, corporate communications editors, and book editors.

Erin serves on the board of directors for ACES: The Society for Editing and has presented about editing, entrepreneurship, and Artificial Intelligence for the Professional Editors Network, Editors Canada, the Northwest Editors Guild, the Editorial Freelancers Association, and ACES.

Email Erin:

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