AI solutions to help writers are everywhere. But as a writer, I always find myself asking: do these actually help writers? Or do they help brands produce a facsimile of writing without having actual writers involved?
ShortlyAI is an example of a company that makes a serious pitch: curing writer’s block. It claims it can use ChatGPT to help you brainstorm, creating text that fits your style.
So, is it any good? That’s what we’re here to find out with this ShortlyAI review.
What is ShortlyAI?
ShortlyAI was launched in August 2020, shortly after the release of GPT-3, by Qasim Munye. Less than a year later, it was acquired by AI writing giant Jasper.
How much does ShortlyAI cost?
You can try out ShortlyAI for free, but you’ll only get 4 uses out of it. Past that, you’ll have to sign up for a monthly or annual subscription.
The monthly plan costs $79/mo, while the annual plan costs $780/yr. Each plan includes unlimited use of ShortlyAI’s tools.
How do you sign up for ShortlyAI?
You don’t need to get a subscription to sign up for ShortlyAI—just put in your name and email. Remember, you’ll only get a few uses out of the service before your free trial expires, so watch out.
How to use ShortlyAI
Once you sign up for ShortlyAI, you’ll be greeted with a brief tutorial. This shows you the two main ways to use Shortly: the Write for me button and slash commands. Let’s take a look at each one.
Write for me button
When you're done with your tutorial, you'll be dropped right into ShortlyAI's word processor. From there, you can simply start writing and use the "Write for me" button whenever you see fit. If you’re not happy with the output, you can redo it.
Above, you can see the text it suggested for this exact paragraph.
The text is fine in terms of tone but littered with factual errors. There’s no such thing as SoonAI, and /WriteForMe is not one of Shortly’s slash commands. ShortlyAI can’t even come up with accurate info about itself.
But that’s a common error people make with AI tools like ChatGPT. It’s not a search engine. It’s not designed to find you true or accurate information—in fact, it’s literally designed to make stuff up.
This presents a problem, however, for writers trying to use Shortly to fill in gaps. As the program’s own copy suggests, ShortlyAI is best used as a brainstorming tool; most of its actual writing should be discarded.
If you want more specific output from ShortlyAI, you can use one of four slash commands: /instruct, /rewrite, /shorten, and /expand. Simply place the text you want fixed in brackets next to those commands, then click the Write for me button once again (or use keyboard shortcuts).
/Instruct yielded more decently written text riddled with factual errors. It suggested that Shortly had “over a dozen” slash commands, despite me typing in the specific four I wanted it to talk about, and even misidentified the /instruct command as “instructions.”
For /rewrite, I asked the bot to rewrite this very sentence, to test if ShortlyAI could come up with a flashier way to talk about itself when given all the information. It came up with… this:
“The first sentence of this paragraph is about the author asking an AI to rewrite a sentence. The second sentence talks about the AI rewriting the letter "A."”
Next, I tried using /expand to make this sentence about ShortlyAI’s text expansion feature longer. It left me with the exact same sentence, and just like that, I’d used up my free trial.
ShortlyAI review: Pros and cons
Simple interface: It’s easy to get started with ShortlyAI, and you’re not likely to run into any trouble using it. It even has simple keyboard shortcuts for all its functions.
Inviting design: One of my biggest pet peeves as a writer is that 99% of word processors are blinding white. This AI writing tool uses a soothing gray that left me eager to start writing.
Realistic expectations: In today’s media cycle, a lot of AI startups are promising the world. ShortlyAI is realistic about what tools like ChatGPT can really do, and lays out a truly useful application for them: curbing writer’s block.
Limited free trial: ShortlyAI has five functions: Write for me, Expand, Shorten, Rewrite, and Instruct. It feels like an intentional design choice that the free trial comes with 4 uses. The question is, why?
Expensive: Writing with ShortlyAI is certainly easier than trying to use ChatGPT to cure your writer’s block, but it’s not $79/mo easier.
Only does five things: I believe ShortlyAI uses an outdated version of ChatGPT, which would explain why it’s so keen to misread prompts and share bad info. Still, even though its initial pitch of curing writer’s block is good, I don’t think the product itself makes a great case for its usefulness.
Final ShortlyAI review
It’s possible that ShortlyAI hasn’t really been updated since it was bought out by Jasper. That’s not just because the chatbot seems to be outdated, it’s also because the banner still reads “Shortly has been acquired by Conversion.ai,” which changed its name to Jasper over a year ago.
While I like the pitch of ShortlyAI, I can’t say that I was wowed by the service. If you’re looking to beat writer’s block with AI, tools like Jasper itself (or even ChatGPT) will probably suit you better than Shortly.
Overall score: 4/10 😔