I recently wrote about how startups can use ChatGPT. This column has led to a large number of positive reactions, which made me very happy. I was asked most often how to write meaningful prompts for ChatGPT. That is why this and the following columns are about exactly this topic.

Writing effective prompts is the fundamental skill that makes interacting successfully with ChatGPT possible in the first place. Not knowing how to create effective prompts can result in confusion, conflicting, or even misleading responses from the chatbot.

I have found that my professional background as a reasoning and formulating lawyer and as a founder of IT companies helps to deal better with ChatGPT. Because basically it is about using the right language on the one hand and mastering and using the technical possibilities of ChatGPT on the other. So let’s take a look below at the considerations that go into creating good prompts to get the most out of ChatGPT.

The right prompts: a good conversation with ChatGPT

Dealing with ChatGPT is like the art of having a good and thus profitable conversation. As with a conversation, you should have a clear goal in mind. The goal then determines the purpose or type of question you ask.

The same goes for the tone you use and the depth of information you want to get in response. So the question arises what role these factors play for a good and goal-oriented answer from ChatGPT.

ChatGPT Prompts: The Purpose

The purpose of a prompt determines how a question is structured. It’s meant to get you where you want to go, and it can be anything from a short and crisp answer to a long, detailed essay, making a list, or even simulating a narrative.

ChatGPT Prompts: The Structure

However, the structure of a question is only one aspect on the way to the goal of a relevant answer. The tone of voice plays an equally important role. It helps set the way ChatGPT responds.

A formal tone of voice can elicit serious factual responses, while an informal tone of voice elicits more creative or casual responses. For example, asking “Describe the effects of climate change” may lead to a more scientific and factual answer, while asking “Why should I care about climate change” may lead to a more informal and engaging answer.

The depth of information

Depth of information is a fundamental factor in getting relevant answers. By specifically asking for more details, you can get ChatGPT to “dig” deeper and respond more comprehensively. However, keep in mind that asking too complex or detailed a question could confuse ChatGPT.

Suppose you are interested in the mechanism responsible for flying an airplane. Instead of asking, “Explain to me how an airplane works, from how the engines work to how lift and thrust are generated to how the fuel is burned and the control systems,” the question could be broken down into individual sub-questions. “Explain to me how airplane engines work” followed by “Now describe how lift and thrust are generated in an airplane” might yield better results.

Generate good quality answers

By influencing these three factors – the structure of the question, the tone of voice and the depth of information – one can significantly influence the quality and relevance of ChatGPT’s answers. These factors are like a kind of compass that helps guide the conversation with ChatGPT to efficiently and effectively reach the desired goal of a meaningful response. Now let’s look at a few examples of good and bad prompts.

Examples of good and bad ChatGPT prompts

Good ChatGPT prompts and why they work:

1. Prompt: “Explain the basics of quantum physics in simple terms.”

This prompt works well because it clearly states the topic (quantum physics), the depth of information required (fundamentals), and the level of complexity (plain words). It allows ChatGPT to provide a targeted response aimed at a non-expert audience.

2. Prompt: “Tell me a funny story about a cat and a mouse.”

This is an example of a good and creative prompt. It is clear and concise, leaving room for ChatGPT to develop creative content. The prompt sets the tone (funny) and specifies certain characters for the story and thus for the depth of information (a cat and a mouse).

3. Prompt: “Describe the steps involved in making a chocolate cake.”

This prompt is good for a procedural or educational response. He clearly outlines the goal (steps to make a chocolate cake) and asks for a sufficiently comprehensive answer (but no more), which dictates the depth of information.

Bad ChatGPT prompts and why they don’t work:

1. Prompt: “Tell me everything about the universe.”

This prompt is too broad and vague. The term “everything” does not imply any specific direction or depth of information, making it difficult for ChatGPT to provide a targeted answer. For example, a better prompt would be “Explain how galaxies form in the universe.”

2. Prompt: “What’s that thing spinning really fast?”

This prompt lacks clear direction of the question (and context). Without specific details, it is impossible for ChatGPT to know what the user is referring to. It would be better to provide more context: “What devices are there in a lab that are spinning or their contents are spinning rapidly”.

3. Prompt: “Why is the sky so blue, why is the grass green, why are we sleeping?”

This prompt asks multiple questions at once, which can confuse ChatGPT. It’s better to break these questions into separate prompts so the AI ​​can provide more targeted and detailed answers for each individual question.

ChatGPT Prompts: Three key takeaways

All of the above leads to three important insights:

  • The way you structure a question, the tone of voice you use, and the depth of information you ask for all play a crucial role in shaping ChatGPT’s responses.
  • One should be clear about the goal of a question before formulating a question. Depending on the objective, you need a detailed factual answer or a creative, personally appealing result.
  • Complex questions should be broken down into simpler, separate prompts to avoid confusing ChatGPT and thereby improve the quality of the answers.

Misunderstandings regarding prompts

Common misunderstandings about prompts:

  • “The longer and more complex a prompt, the better ChatGPT’s response will be.” In reality, overly complex prompts can confuse the AI. It’s better to break down complex questions into simpler, individual prompts so that partial answers can give a clear overall result.
  • “ChatGPT understands the tone of voice implicitly”. In fact, you have to explicitly set the tone of voice for the response in the prompt to control the AI’s responses.

ChatGPT Prompts: Practical Tips

I would like to close with three practical tips:

  • It makes sense to experiment with different question structures, tone of voice, and depth of information to see how these affect ChatGPT’s response.
  • If an answer doesn’t meet your expectations, try changing either the structure, tone of voice, or depth of information and see how the result changes.
  • In any case, clear, unambiguous language should be used. Avoid idioms, cultural references, or overly complex vocabulary unless the nature of the response specifically requires it.

In the next column, I’ll look at how prompts affect the length, detail, and complexity of ChatGPT’s responses. Feel free to write me suggestions for further columns related to ChatGPT in the comments.

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Source: https://www.basicthinking.de/blog/2023/06/30/chatgpt-prompts-formulieren/

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