Quillbot Overview: What Is it and How Well Does It Work?
Over the last couple of years, we have seen an absolute explosion of AI-powered everything. There are generative AIs, but there is also a whole slate of AI-powered tools meant to use the AI processing systems to augment some other existing tool or platform. Quillbot is somewhere in the middle, so let’s talk about it.
What is Quillbot?
First, let’s take a description straight from Quillbot’s website:
“QuillBot is an online writing platform with a bunch of tools aimed at elevating and perfecting your writing. QuillBot paraphrases, summarizes, checks for grammar and plagiarism, translates, outlines, creates citations, and sets you up for success in school, work, and your personal life. Essentially, QuillBot makes writing painless.”
Quillbot is a “writing” tool that uses generative AI to do a variety of tasks related to writing. The main one most people use is the Paraphraser, which I’ll dig into in its own section, but I’ll stick with the overview for now.
Here’s a rundown of the services Quillbot offers:
- Paraphrasing, which rewords a passage of text with a handful of options for style, such as converting it into academic, formal, creative, or simple text.
- Grammar Checking, which is essentially an AI-driven version of Grammarly (which is itself AI-driven these days.)
- Plagiarism Checking, which scans a document and looks for instances of plagiarism, similar to Copyscape.
- Co-Writing, which is a generative AI system that does simple Google searches for you, allows you to grab passages and spin them, and stitches everything together.
- Summarizing, which is just the paraphraser but with the “make it shorter” option turned on, as near as I can tell.
- Citation Generating, which allows you to provide the system with a URL to a blog post, journal article, book, or other kind of media, and generates an appropriate citation for you.
- Translation, which allows you to convert a passage from one language to another. They support Arabic, Bengali, Cebuano, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
They also have plugins for Chrome, Word, and MacOS, so you aren’t limited to using their service just through their website.
Quillbot Pricing and Plans
Quillbot has a free plan and a paid plan, and it’s just the one paid plan, though they have an additional setup for teams.
The free plan allows you to put up to 125 words in the paraphraser at once. It gives you access to the standard and fluency modes and limited use of the “synonym slider,” which is basically the dial they give you to crank up or tone down the thesaurus usage. They give you one “freeze word,” which is the ability to “lock” a certain word to prevent the AI from changing it (for use with brand names and important industry terminology). Finally, they let you use the summarizer for up to 1,200 words of text.
The paid plan is where everything else lives. The cap for the paraphraser is removed, you get access to all of its different modes and custom modes, the synonym slider is unlocked, and you can specify unlimited freeze words. It will summarize up to 6,000 words in the summarizer, and you can give the summarizer unique instructions. This is also where you get access to the plagiarism checker. Other features are included as well, like tone insights and paraphraser history.
Pricing for Premium is $20 per month, though if you pay annually, it drops down to a little over $8 per month.
How Well Does Quillbot Work?
To give you an idea of how Quillbot works, let’s test it out. For this test, I’m using a chunk of the definition of Generative Artificial Intelligence from Wikipedia.
Here’s the original, which I’ve trimmed slightly to make it a better demonstration:
“Generative artificial intelligence (also generative AI) is artificial intelligence capable of generating text, images, or other media, using generative models. Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data and then generate new data that has similar characteristics.
Generative AI has uses across a wide range of industries, including art, writing, script writing, software development, product design, healthcare, finance, gaming, marketing, and fashion. Investment in generative AI surged during the early 2020s, with large companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Baidu, as well as numerous smaller firms developing generative AI models. However, there are also concerns about the potential misuse of generative AI, including cybercrime or creating fake news or deepfakes which can be used to deceive or manipulate people.”
If you run this text through the paraphraser on its default settings, you get this:
“Artificial intelligence that uses generative models to produce writing, graphics, or other media is known as generative AI, or generative AI. After gaining an understanding of the structure and patterns in the training data they receive, generative AI models produce new data with those same features.
Numerous industries, including software development, product design, healthcare, finance, gaming, marketing, and fashion, can benefit from the application of generative AI. Early in the new millennium, generative AI saw a sharp increase in investment as various smaller businesses and major corporations like Microsoft, Google, and Baidu developed generative AI models. On the other hand, there are worries over the possible abuse of generative AI, such as cybercrime or the production of deepfakes or fake news that can be used to trick or control people.”
As you can see, it changes up the actual text while largely keeping the structure and meaning. There’s a word for that in marketing circles.
I ran the resulting passage through a few checks. Copyscape shows no results, which is to be expected since it’s a fairly 1:1 check. Copyleaks and GPTZero both identify it as 100% AI-generated, however. Interestingly, both of these services identify the original from Wikipedia as AI-generated as well. I can’t rule that out as being the case, so I checked both services with some of my original writing (the two paragraphs about the paid and free plans above), and both came back 100% human.
This is good because the last thing I need before the holidays is an existential crisis about my own humanity.
The other services work pretty much exactly how you would expect. The grammar checker is functionally identical to Grammarly, and the summarizer trims down the passage into this:
“Generative AI, which uses generative models to create media, has gained significant investment in various industries like software development, product design, healthcare, finance, gaming, marketing, and fashion. However, concerns about potential abuse, such as cybercrime or fake news, persist, highlighting the need for careful consideration and regulation.”
The translator at least gives the appearance of translating, though given that I’m not fluent in any of those other languages, I can’t verify its accuracy offhand.
One note is that a good use for AI – converting dialects of a language, like US to UK English or Spain/Mexican Spanish – is unavailable here.
Is Quillbot Worth Using?
Here’s where the real question comes in. Is Quillbot worth using in a world where there are a bunch of AI writing tools, from Grammarly itself to Jasper to ChatGPT raw?
The answer depends on what you want to use it for.
For marketing, content writing, SEO, and other such content? I would say it’s probably not worth using over the other platforms out there. It doesn’t do anything unique enough, it isn’t as guided or as useful for the purpose as something like Jasper, and the limitations on the free plan chafe, while the paid plan doesn’t give enough value-add compared to the other existing tools.
The paraphraser is essentially an AI-driven article spinner, with all of the same issues article spinners have, up to and including the fact that Google’s semantic and structural indexing exists, which means it’s trivial for them to detect spun content.
But that’s not what Quillbot is for. Quillbot was designed primarily for academia.
Truthfully, this is where Quillbot has the potential to shine. Being able to use AI to summarize and paraphrase long, tricky content like scientific journals and other academic writing can be a godsend, especially if you’re struggling with the way some other academic a dozen or a hundred years ago wrote something. It can be a decent way to read the same content written in a different and possibly more digestible way.
The citation generator can also be very useful, though truth be told, citations are a very rigid format, and there have been citation-generating tools available for decades.
It may also be useful in actually writing academic content, though it can’t do it by itself. There’s a whole world of academic ethics and AI that is worth discussing, though I’m only going to look into it briefly.
Intent vs Reality and the Ethics of Generative AI
Quillbot – and, to an extent, the other language-model AIs – will generally tell you that they’re meant to be assistants and tools, not replacements for learning and writing. It’s why they all bill themselves as writing assistants.
In practice, people want shortcuts, and when they’re given a tool that can give them a shortcut, they’ll take it. This goes for marketers, but it especially goes for students.
Quillbot was posted in the Unethical Life Pro Tips subreddit a number of years ago.
There, one of the lead devs stepped in to comment:
“Hey, I’m the lead dev for Quillbot. Appreciate the free publicity, but I feel the obligation to clarify that although plagiarism is a consequential application of our tech, it is not our objective. The system is meant to act as a smart sentence thesaurus for creative writing brainstorming. It can also assist second language students in finding different ways of representing the same concept and, in general, help expand one’s vocabulary. So yeah, you technically can plagiarize an essay with it, but you can also use it to touch up your actual work.” – Source.
This is an interesting perspective to take: our tool can be used for plagiarism, but because that’s not why we made it, it’s fine. It’s also worth noting that this post is from five years ago, which was four years before ChatGPT and the other LLMs hit the scene; at the time, it was a lot more like a basic article spinner and had less generative AI capability.
As it stands, academia is struggling with Generative AI and the way it allows students to bypass learning in favor of telling an AI to write papers for them. It’s academic dishonesty, and it hinders real education… and there’s no clear solution. Pandora’s Box has been opened, and there’s no closing it now. I don’t claim to have a solution.
The legal, academic, copyright, and plagiarism issues surrounding generative AI will need to be sorted out soon, but that’s a matter best left to lawyers, not marketing blogs.
Should You Use Quillbot?
AI is a tricky proposition these days. There are the ethical questions, of course. There are purely practical concerns, like whether or not – and when – Google and the other search engines will decide to penalize AI-generated content. There are definitely valid uses for AI technology (like using it to generate blog post ideas), but all of them typically come back to one divide:
Is the tool replacing the act of understanding and producing content on a subject, or is it assisting in alleviating the tedium surrounding content creation?
Using AI to generate blog post topics and title ideas? That’s fine. Using it to generate academic citations? Go for it. Using it to summarize content so you can read it faster? Sure, why not? Using it to generate entire academic papers or blog posts? That’s a lot worse, ethically and functionally.
Here’s my verdict. Should you use Quillbot for blogging and content creation? No. Can you use it for research, grammar aid, and even translation? Sure, if you want, though I would hire someone to double-check the translation. That said, there are better services to do these things for you. Quillbot doesn’t quite live up to where it needs to be to replace those services, at least in my book, nor am I alone in that.
If you want to use AI to assist you, there are plenty of tools available, often specialized and better at what they do. Topicfinder uses AI assistance to help generate huge numbers of useful topic ideas you can filter down, for example.
If you want AI to generate marketing content for you, there are better tools available there as well. Ultimately, Quillbot just falls short of the high water mark on pretty much every level.
What do you think? Do you disagree with me? What software do you prefer to use? Please share with us in the comments below!
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