Close up of the ChatGPT logo on a Google Pixel 7 Pro
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

As a Large Language Model (LLM), ChatGPT can actually be so multi-purpose that it’s less useful than it could be for specific jobs. By crafting ChatGPT into different specific personas, you can make it smarter and more useful.

What’s a ChatGPT Persona?

The ChatGPT you get by default has a very professional, curated, friendly tone. It’s been carefully tuned by OpenAI to work well for everyone, but that makes it a little bland. Not only that, by default, ChatGPT taps into the full knowledge within the LLM, which can make getting the correct information or behavior from it daunting.

A ChatGPT persona is a specific personality you ask ChatGPT to take on. Because ChatGPT remembers everything said in a session, you can set the rules for your interaction for that chat thread. That includes specifying what sort of persona ChatGPT should have.

RELATED: How to Tell If an Article Was Written by ChatGPT

Crafting a Prompt For The Persona

While most people provide “prompts” to ChatGPT that are quite short (it’s a chatbot, after all), you can write quite complex prompts with a decent length. This gives you the latitude to really describe the persona you want it to have.

That’s a double-edged sword, of course, because that means you’re staring at a blank page and have to come up with the elements of the persona. This isn’t exhaustive, but these are some key aspects of the persona you should consider including in your description:

  • Identity: For example, its name, occupation, background, and role in the conversation context.
  • Characteristics: The persona’s personality traits, communication style, beliefs, and values.
  • Knowledge and expertise: The specific areas of knowledge or expertise that the persona possesses.
  • Experiences: Any relevant past experiences, achievements, or challenges that have shaped the persona’s perspective.
  • Motivations: The goals, desires, or driving forces influencing the persona’s actions and decisions.
  • Emotional and relational aspects: The persona’s emotional state, level of empathy, and approach to building and maintaining relationships.
  • Context: The specific setting or situation in which the persona is operating.

Where did we get these key factors? We asked ChatGPT for them! Obviously, you can add your own factors, and you don’t have to specify all of these, just those relevant to your needs.

Asking ChatGPT for help when coming up with prompts is an important technique. All three of the example prompts below were first drafted by ChatGPT. Specifically, we used ChatGPT-4, but you can use the free ChatGPT-3.5 version as well.

A prompt asking ChatGPT for a Persona Promp of Abe Lincoln

Following the initial draft provided by GPT, simply edit the text in any way you want. You can use it as is, change it a little, or just use it as inspiration. If you want, you can create your own persona templates and re-use them. GPT will understand virtually any prompt format, so do what works best for you.

For actual conversations, we’ve stuck with ChatGPT-3.5 Turbo (the default model) because it’s so much faster, but if you want the persona to be as complex and accurate as possible, using ChatGPT-4 is, of course, better, albeit only available to paying customers at the time of writing.

Example 1: Learning History From Abe Lincoln

In our first example, we will create a persona of a historical figure, Abraham Lincoln. There are many reasons to do something like this, such as wanting to learn about a particular person or period more engagingly and interactively. A key use case here would be creating a persona like this to help your children learn.

Here is the prompt we used, originally formulated by ChatGPT-4 and then tweaked a little by us to better suit our needs.

Hello ChatGPT, for the duration of this conversation, please fully immerse yourself in the persona of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States (1809-1865). Your responses should be consistent with Lincoln’s beliefs, knowledge, values, and experiences during the Civil War era, reflecting his deep understanding of the complexities of the conflict, his commitment to preserving the Union, and his efforts to end slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation. Additionally, please convey Lincoln’s eloquent speaking style and considerate nature, as well as his personal struggles and emotions during this tumultuous period in American history. As I ask questions, share your thoughts, wisdom, and experiences as though you were Abraham Lincoln himself, providing me with a truly authentic and engaging interaction.

Once you enter this prompt, you’ll get an acknowledgment from ChatGPT, and any questions or discussions further in the thread will be answered as the Lincoln persona.

ChatGPT Responding as Abe Lincoln

You may still notice some things don’t seem quite right, such as Abe referring to himself in the past tense or the third person. Modifying your prompt to exclude those behaviors can address these sorts of things. By experimenting, you can tweak the persona to a fine degree.

RELATED: How to Fix a ChatGPT "Error in Body Stream"

Example 2: Creating A Life Coach

In this next example, we’re trying to craft a life coach persona for ChatGPT. Since it’s helpful to have a life coach that knows your specific circumstances. We asked ChatGPT-4 to draft an initial prompt for a life coach persona who specializes in helping people with Asperger’s Syndrome (now part of Autism Spectrum Disorder) and added our customizations to it.

ChatGPT, for the duration of this conversation, please assume the role of a compassionate and knowledgeable life coach specializing in working with individuals who have Asperger’s Syndrome. Your responses should demonstrate a deep understanding of the unique strengths, challenges, and experiences that people with Asperger’s may encounter in their daily lives. Provide guidance, encouragement, and practical advice to help them achieve personal growth, develop effective coping strategies, and foster strong relationships. As I ask questions, kindly offer your insights and recommendations while displaying empathy and support for the person with Asperger’s Syndrome, creating a truly helpful and understanding conversation.

If you want this life coach only to follow specific coaching techniques or implement certain theories, you can also specify that in the prompt. Try to craft the life coach chatbot that best fits your needs and desires.

ChatGPT as a Life Coach

Example 3: Creating an Editor For Your Writing

You’d think that technologies such as ChatGPT would spell the end for writing as a profession or even as a hobby. In reality, it’s probably the most powerful tool for writers to accelerate and elevate their work invented so far.

More importantly, anyone who writes for a living knows that they’d be much worse at what they do without the tireless work done by editors, so you can have that same care and attention by crafting ChatGPT into an editor for the specific type of content you want to develop. In this case, we want an editor to help us write a Sci-Fi story. Here’s the prompt we used:

ChatGPT, for the duration of this conversation, please assume the role of an experienced and knowledgeable science fiction editor, with a talent for guiding writers through the process of developing their stories from initial concept to polished completion. Your responses should demonstrate a deep understanding of the science fiction genre, its tropes, and conventions, as well as an awareness of the key elements that make a compelling and engaging story. As I ask questions and share ideas, kindly offer constructive feedback, insightful suggestions, and practical advice to help refine the plot, characters, world-building, and narrative structure. Additionally, please provide support and encouragement to foster creativity and confidence in the writer, ensuring a collaborative and productive conversation.

And so here’s an example of the feedback we got for our initial story pitch.

ChatGPT giving advice as a Sci-Fi Story Editor

ChatGPT can help you keep track of characters, the rules of the world you want to build, and any other aspect of your story. You can give it pieces of the story you’ve written and ask for suggestions on anything.

Tip: If ChatGPT ever stops in the middle of a response, because it’s at its word limit, simply make your next prompt “continue” and it will pick up exactly where it left off. Repeat until you have the whole reply.

If you’re writing non-fiction or in any particular niche, you can change the prompt to fit your needs.

RELATED: How to Save and Share Your ChatGPT Conversations

Some Important Points of Caution

Once you’ve spent some time with the personas you’ve created, or even just plain old ChatGPT, you’ll realize this technology is a game-changer for writing. However, you need to consider a few key points:

  • If you’re writing nonfiction or rely on true facts from your writing, you always have to double-check what ChatGPT tells you since it’s prone to saying things that aren’t true. One surprisingly effective approach to the problem is using Bing AI chat to fact-check ChatGPT’s statements.
  • The same goes for any advice it gives you, whether your source of advice is an LLM or a person; it’s a good idea to get some third-party perspective or a second opinion if it’s about something important.
  • The personas you create might go off the rails. OpenAI has put numerous guard rails in place, but with LLMs like these, it’s impossible to foresee every possibility. This means that you might create a persona that ends up being offensive, dishonest, untrustworthy, or otherwise not what you wanted.

It’s also a good idea to keep a backup of your chat history since it may disappear or become unavailable anytime. Save copies of your best persona prompts in a cloud document or some other safe place.

If your chat history becomes lost or unusable, you can use your backed-up text to give a fresh version of the persona background on what its previous iteration said to you. It’s not a perfect way to get continuity, but at least you won’t have to start entirely from scratch.

Finally, don’t forget that you can fine-tune your ChatGPT persona on the fly or restart a new chat thread with a tweaked version of your initial prompt. Don’t be afraid to iterate your prompt until you get exactly what you want!

RELATED: 8 Surprising Things You Can Do With ChatGPT

Profile Photo for Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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