I recently came across an interesting guide on how to train ChatGPT to write in your own voice and style. It is part of the Substack publication Write With AI, by Nicolas Cole and Dickie Bush.

I decided to give it a try because if I succeeded, this would solve one of the biggest problems I’ve noticed with ChatGPT: the writing it generates is almost always boring, vague, and lifeless.

Here are the three steps the article suggested I follow:

  • Step 1: Grab a “signature” piece of writing
  • Step 2: Prompt ChatGPT to analyze the writing
  • Step 3: Give ChatGPT the sample writing

Here’s how I did it, step by step.

Step 1: Grab a “signature” piece of writing

I started by using Google Analytics to find the most popular pieces of writing I’ve published:

  1. The PARA Method: The Simple System for Organizing Your Digital Life in Seconds (2,000 words)
  2. Building a Second Brain: The Definitive Introductory Guide (4,500 words)
  3. Progressive Summarization: A Practical Technique for Designing Discoverable Notes (2,900 words)
  4. How To Take Smart Notes: 10 Principles to Revolutionize Your Note-Taking and Writing (7,000 words)
  5. 12 Steps to Build a Second Brain (700 words)
  6. One-Touch to Inbox Zero: How I Spend 17 Minutes Per Day on Email (3,800 words)
  7. The One-Touch Guide to Doing a Weekly Review: How I Go From Chaos to Clarity in 30 Minutes (3,900 words)
  8. The 4 Notetaking Styles: How to Choose a Digital Notes App as Your Second Brain (1,600 words)
  9. How to Summarize Books Using ChatGPT: 7 Experiments in AI Distillation (2,700 words)
  10. What I Learned From The Bullet Journal Method (2,000 words)

My ultimate goal is to be able to replicate the success of these pieces, “mass producing” articles at the same standard of quality and in my same voice without me having to personally compose every single word.

A quick Google search reveals that the current “context window size” (i.e. how many words ChatGPT can process and understand at once) is now about 4,000 words. I used the Google Chrome plugin Word Counter to determine how many words each of the above pieces was and added that number in parentheses after each one. 

Good news! It looks like nearly all of them can fit in their entirety within a single ChatGPT prompt.

Step 2: Prompt ChatGPT to analyze the writing

Here’s the prompt I used from the Write With AI guide:

You have expertise in linguistics, natural language processing, and prompt engineering.

Your task is to convert the provided text into an elaborate style guide. 

This guide will serve as a blueprint for creating fresh content on a distinct topic while maintaining the original style demonstrated in the text.

Pay special attention to aspects like:

  1. The voice and tone: How formal or casual is the language? Is it authoritative, friendly, neutral, or something else?
  2. Mood: What emotional atmosphere is created? Does the text seem cheerful, melancholic, mysterious, etc.?
  3. Sentence structure: Are the sentences simple, compound, complex, or a mixture? How long are they typically?
  4. Transition style: How does the writer navigate from one idea to another? What types of transition words or phrases are used?
  5. Rhythm and pacing: Is the writing fast-paced with lots of short sentences, or is it slow and deliberate with longer sentences?
  6. Signature styles: Are there any recurring phrases or unique punctuation usage that stands out? Any patterns or repetitions?

I am particularly interested in the stylistic nuances that set this author’s writing apart. 

Identify those elements that could serve as indicators of this author’s distinctive writing style.

Let me know when you are ready for the text.

Within a few seconds, ChatGPT responded:

Screenshot of ChatGPT response

It’s go time!

Step 3: Give ChatGPT the sample writing

Next, I copied and pasted the entire text of my first piece, The PARA Method blog post, into the chat window. Here’s what it looked like:

Feeding ChatGPT my blog post

And here’s how ChatGPT replied:

After reading the text thoroughly, I will outline the key stylistic elements that can be used to create a similar style of content in the future.

  1. Voice and Tone: The voice is authoritative, informed, and experienced. The tone maintains a balanced blend of formality and conversational approachability, making it authoritative yet relatable. The writer frequently uses inclusive language (“you,” “we,” “us”) to foster a sense of connection with the reader.
  2. Mood: The mood is largely optimistic, motivational, and encouraging, creating a sense of potential and progress for the reader.
  3. Sentence Structure: The sentences are a mixture of simple, compound, and complex structures. The writer employs a variety of sentence lengths to maintain reader interest and pace. Short sentences are often used for emphasis or to make important points.
  4. Transition Style: The writer transitions smoothly between ideas, often using connective phrases like “in other words,” “but most of all,” “instead of,” and “after more than.” This helps the reader to follow the flow of ideas and see their interconnections.
  5. Rhythm and Pacing: The writing maintains a deliberate pace, giving the reader time to absorb and understand each point. Shorter, punchier sentences are used to maintain rhythm and punctuate key points.
  6. Signature Styles:
    • The writer frequently employs the technique of introducing an idea, followed by further explanation and then real-world examples. This lends credibility and aids understanding.
    • Questions are regularly posed to engage the reader and encourage reflection.
    • The writer uses personal anecdotes and experiences to provide real-world context and authority.
    • The use of lists and bullet points is common to highlight multiple examples or steps.
    • The writer often directly addresses potential doubts or concerns the reader might have, and then offers solutions.

Using these stylistic elements as guidelines, you can create content that maintains the distinctive style of this text. The ability to balance an authoritative tone with approachability, provide clear examples, and directly address the reader’s potential concerns are key elements in recreating the style demonstrated in the text.

Wow! There’s a lot to unpack here, but I could tell right away that these were useful guidelines for creating writing in my style.

I decided to try it again with a different piece, to see if ChatGPT’s evaluation of my style varies much from one piece to another. I typed:

“Next, I will ask you to perform the same evaluation on a different piece by the same author. Please let me know when you’re ready,” and then pasted in the full text of The 4 Notetaking Styles.

Here’s what ChatGPT replied with:

This piece, like the previous one, also follows a discursive and pedagogical style. Here are some key stylistic features:

  1. Direct Address to the Reader: The author communicates directly to the reader, guiding them through a personal journey of understanding. It creates a friendly, conversational tone that draws the reader in and keeps them engaged.
  2. Use of Analogies and Metaphors: The author uses archetypal roles (e.g., the Architect, the Gardener, the Librarian, and the Student) as metaphors to describe different types of note-takers, making abstract concepts more concrete and understandable. These are enriched with specific examples and descriptions, giving each metaphor a solid characterization.
  3. Balanced Exposition: The author offers a balanced discussion of each note-taking style, detailing its strengths, potential pitfalls, and suited note-taking applications. This makes the content feel fair, objective, and comprehensive.
  4. Empowerment: The article emphasizes the individual’s ability to understand their unique style and adapt accordingly. It promotes self-efficacy, encouraging readers to determine their unique way of working and choose the tools that best serve their needs.
  5. Use of Rhetorical Questions: The author uses rhetorical questions (e.g., “How do you pick the right app?”) to engage readers, provoke thought, and prepare them for upcoming answers or discussions.
  6. Interdisciplinary Approach: The piece draws on concepts from various fields, such as architecture, gardening, library science, and education, showcasing the author’s broad knowledge base and the interdisciplinary nature of their approach.
  7. Signposting: The author uses clear headings to structure the piece, allowing the reader to follow the progression of ideas easily.
  8. Invitation to Interact: The author invites the reader to engage with additional resources (a YouTube series), extending the conversation beyond the written piece. This further strengthens the pedagogical nature of the work.

The author’s style, again, is clear, engaging, and approachable, with a strong focus on empowering readers to understand their personal styles and needs. This work demonstrates a deep understanding of the subject matter and a strong commitment to helping readers navigate their individual paths through the terrain of knowledge management.


Despite the topic being quite similar, ChatGPT identified a number of new stylistic elements. For example, it picked up on my “Use of Analogies and Metaphors,” which wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the first analysis despite being something I tend to rely heavily on. It also named “Signposting” as a wonderfully specific way of structuring articles, which wasn’t mentioned in the first analysis either.

In other cases, ChatGPT identified the same element but described it in a more precise way that will be easier for me to apply to future output. For example: 

  • “Direct Address to the Reader” (from the second analysis) is much more specific than “The writer frequently uses inclusive language (‘you,’ ‘we,’ ‘us’) to foster a sense of connection with the reader” (from the first analysis)
  • “Use of Rhetorical Questions” is much more accurate and succinct than “Questions are regularly posed to engage the reader and encourage reflection”
  • “Interdisciplinary Approach” is much more useful than “provides real-world context and authority” because it explains why it has authority – by drawing on multiple disciplines

This significantly better result made me wonder if ChatGPT benefited from seeing multiple examples of writing by the same author. 

I decided to do a third round and typed “Thank you, that second analysis was better because it used more specific and concrete terminology and examples. I’d like to give you a third piece by the same author to analyze in the same way. Let me know when you’re ready.”

After pasting in the full text of One-Touch to Inbox Zero, here is the result (I’ve underlined the parts we haven’t seen before):

Based on the provided text, here’s a breakdown of the key stylistic elements and the subsequent style guide:

  • Voice and Tone: The text’s voice is authoritative and instructional. It provides clear directions on how to manage emails efficiently and doesn’t leave much room for interpretation, showing the writer’s expertise on the subject matter. The tone, however, is conversational and engaging, with an emphasis on addressing the reader directly (“you”) to create a sense of intimacy and personal relevance.

Style Guide: Maintain an authoritative yet conversational tone. Use the second person pronoun ‘you’ frequently to keep the text engaging and personalized. 

  • Mood: The mood of the text is empowering and encouraging. It aims to provide solutions, motivate the reader to take control of their email management, and thus their time and productivity.

Style Guide: Ensure the mood remains empowering and solution-focused. The aim is to instill a sense of confidence and control in the reader.

  • Sentence Structure: The sentences are a mix of simple, compound, and complex structures. The author uses longer sentences to explain concepts or processes and shorter sentences to emphasize key points or actions.

Style Guide: Use a mix of sentence structures. Use longer sentences for explanations and shorter ones for emphasis and action points.

  • Transition Style: The author uses a mixture of numbers, line breaks, and transition words (such as ‘then’, ‘but’, ‘also’) to navigate from one idea to another. This helps in breaking down the information into digestible chunks.

Style Guide: Use a combination of numeric points, transition words, and paragraphs to guide the reader from one idea to the next. Break down complex ideas into simpler, digestible parts.

  • Rhythm and Pacing: The pacing of the text is steady, and the rhythm is dictated by the transition between different ideas and steps. The author carefully balances detail with progression to maintain reader interest and comprehension.

Style Guide: Maintain a steady pace. Provide enough detail to fully inform the reader without overwhelming or slowing down the flow of information.

  • Signature Styles: The author has a habit of using all-caps for emphasis (e.g., “WITHOUT ACTUALLY DOING IT,” “YOU”). Quotations are used strategically to reinforce points. Repetition is used for emphasis and to ingrain crucial points in the reader’s mind (e.g., the various references to archiving each email).

Style Guide: Use capital letters for emphasis sparingly. Incorporate relevant quotes to support points. Use repetition strategically to reinforce important concepts. 

  • Distinctive Element: One distinctive aspect of the author’s style is the use of numbered points to present a clear step-by-step guide. Another is the use of direct commands to guide the reader’s actions (e.g., “Turn on Auto-advance,” “Open Gmail”).

Style Guide: Use numbered points for step-by-step instructions. Use direct commands to guide the reader’s actions. 

This style guide should help maintain the original style while creating new content on different topics. The key is to balance the authoritative tone with a conversational approach, using clear instructions, strategic repetition, and a mixture of sentence structures.

And finally, a fourth round, on the piece 12 Steps to Build a Second Brain (novel parts underlined):

Having analyzed both text samples, here’s the comprehensive style guide that reflects the author’s writing:

  1. Voice and Tone: The voice in these texts is authoritative, yet friendly and approachable. The author is clearly knowledgeable and experienced in the subject matter and provides guidance with confidence. However, the language is quite informal and conversational, making the content accessible and engaging.
  2. Mood: The mood of the texts is upbeat, positive, and encouraging. The author empowers the reader to take steps and implement the suggestions offered, promoting a can-do attitude.
  3. Sentence Structure: The sentence structures are quite varied. There is a good mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences. The author seems to prefer shorter sentences for making specific points or giving instructions, while longer sentences are used to explain concepts or provide context.
  4. Transition Style: Transitions are clear and organized, typically with the use of numbered or bulleted lists to guide the reader through sequential steps or related points. The use of informal, conversational transitions (e.g., “Believe me,” “But I know”) are also common, making the text more relatable.
  5. Rhythm and Pacing: The rhythm is generally consistent, using a mix of sentence lengths to maintain reader engagement. Pacing varies according to the content – instructions or steps are delivered in a brisk, direct style, while explanations or conceptual content take a more measured pace.
  6. Signature Styles
    • The author regularly employs the technique of Direct Address, speaking directly to the reader using “you,” which helps in creating an engaging, interactive feel to the writing.
    • The author frequently uses Imperative Sentences for instructions or recommendations, which conveys authority.
    • The texts feature several External References, directing the reader to other resources (e.g., workshops, blog posts, videos) to provide additional context or detail.
    • There is a noticeable trend of the author using Phrases of Assurance (e.g., “Believe me,” “I invite you,” “I recommend”), which help build trust and rapport with the reader.
    • The author often uses Colloquial Language and Informal Phrasing (e.g., “get your Second Brain started,” “saving any article or other piece of online content you’re interested in for later consumption”) to keep the tone light and relatable.

In sum, when crafting content in this author’s style, strive for a friendly yet authoritative tone, use a mix of sentence structures, clear and organized transitions, and maintain an upbeat mood. Remember to address the reader directly, give clear instructions, make external references, use phrases of assurance, and use informal language when appropriate.

I’m surprised that we’re still seeing many new patterns that ChatGPT has identified in my writing. Presumably I could keep feeding it new pieces, but I think this is enough for now.

Next, I combined all four analyses produced so far, and asked it to synthesize them into a single, unified style guide. I adapted the initial prompt, instructing ChatGPT to analyze and integrate its previous four analyses into a style guide:

You have an expertise in linguistics, natural language processing, non-fiction writing, and prompt engineering.

Your task is to convert the following analyses of an author’s writing into an elaborate, detailed style guide. 

This guide will serve as a blueprint for creating fresh content on a distinct topic while maintaining the original style demonstrated in the analyzed texts.

Let me know when you are ready for the analyses.

Here’s what ChatGPT came up with:

Author’s Writing Style Guide


1. Voice and Tone

The voice of the author should come across as knowledgeable and authoritative yet approachable. In other words, the writing should carry a sense of expertise without sounding overly academic or detached. The language should strike a balance between formality and conversationality. The author should be seen as a guide, providing valuable insights while fostering a strong sense of connection with the reader.

Guideline: Write in a manner that comes across as informed and experienced without being intimidating. Use an approachable tone that is conversational yet professional, fostering a sense of connection with the reader.

2. Mood

The mood of the writing should be largely optimistic, motivational, and encouraging. The goal is to foster a sense of potential and progress, urging the reader to aspire and strive for better.

Guideline: Keep the mood uplifting and positive. The writing should inspire the reader and encourage them to take action.

3. Sentence Structure

The author employs a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences. A variety of sentence lengths should be used to maintain reader interest and control the pacing of the narrative. Short sentences should be used for emphasis or to highlight important points.

Guideline: Craft sentences of varying structures and lengths. Utilize short sentences for emphasis and longer sentences for detailed explanations or descriptions.

4. Transition Style

Transitions should be smooth and seamless, using connective phrases and words to link ideas. This helps guide the reader through the text, allowing them to follow the narrative and see the interconnections between different points.

Guideline: Use transition words and phrases such as “in other words,” “but most of all,” “instead of,” and “after more than” to ensure smooth transitions between ideas.

5. Rhythm and Pacing

The writing should maintain a deliberate pace, allowing readers time to absorb each point. Shorter, punchier sentences can be used to maintain rhythm and accentuate key points.

Guideline: Maintain a steady rhythm throughout the text by controlling the pace with the use of sentence length. 

6. Signature Styles

The author uses several distinct techniques and patterns in their writing. These include the use of:

  • Introduction of an idea followed by further explanation and real-world examples
  • Regular use of questions to engage the reader and encourage reflection
  • Personal anecdotes and experiences to provide context and authority
  • Lists and bullet points to highlight multiple examples or steps
  • Directly addressing potential doubts or concerns the reader might have, and offering solutions

Guideline: Implement these signature styles in your writing. Introduce ideas and follow them up with explanations and examples. Pose questions, share personal experiences, use lists and bullet points, and directly address the reader’s concerns.

7. Use of Analogies and Metaphors

The author is known for the use of archetypal roles as metaphors to make abstract concepts more concrete and relatable. They draw from various fields to provide enriching and characterizing examples.

Guideline: Utilize appropriate analogies and metaphors in your writing, drawing from various disciplines to make your points more understandable and relatable.

8. Empowerment

A significant theme across the author’s work is the empowerment of the reader. The author encourages the reader to understand their unique style and adapt accordingly.

Guideline: Write in a way that promotes self-efficacy and encourages readers to recognize and harness their unique potential.

9. Use of Rhetorical Questions

The author frequently uses rhetorical questions to engage the reader, provoke thought, and pave the way for discussions or answers.

Guideline: Incorporate rhetorical questions in your writing to stimulate the reader’s thinking and to introduce new ideas or discussions.

10. Interdisciplinary Approach

The author draws from various fields in their writing, showing their broad knowledge base and the interdisciplinarity of their approach.

Guideline: Use an interdisciplinary approach in your writing, linking concepts from various fields to provide a rich and diverse perspective.

11. Direct Commands and Use of Numbers

The author is known for using direct commands and numbering to guide the reader’s actions and structure information.

Guideline: Use direct commands to guide the reader’s actions and numbering to provide a clear structure to your writing.

Following this style guide will help you create content that reflects the author’s distinctive style, while being adaptable to various topics. It offers a balance of authority and approachability, promotes reader engagement, and encourages personal growth, which are key elements in replicating the style demonstrated in the analyzed texts.

This looks great! It’s always a bit dangerous to perform an “analysis of an analysis” when it comes to writing, as that can quickly turn into talking “about” things rather than just saying them directly. For example, the instruction “Write in a way that promotes self-efficacy” strikes me as unhelpful, as it’s not actually saying how to do that.

Still, this is without a doubt the most detailed and thorough analysis of my writing style I’ve ever seen. If it can be used to produce even a rough draft in my voice, that will represent a huge leap forward in our editorial process.

If you’re looking for advice on how to leverage AI tools like ChatGPT for writing, I can highly recommend subscribing to Write With AI. They have both free and paid options, and it’s been one of my favorite educational resources on this topic.

In a future piece, I’ll take you through the steps I followed to utilize this style guide to generate a new piece of writing.

Follow us for the latest updates and insights around productivity and Building a Second Brain on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And if you’re ready to start building your Second Brain, get the book and learn the proven method to organize your digital life and unlock your creative potential.