Writing effective prompts for AI

How to create effective prompts for AI assistants like ChatGPT, Claude and Gemini.

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To really make the most of AI assistants like Claude, ChatGPT et al, you need to learn how to communicate with them effectively. And that's where the art of crafting effective prompts comes in.

Prompts are like the secret handshake between you and your AI assistant. They set the stage for the entire conversation and can make a huge difference in the kind of responses you get back. Basically, if you want your AI assistant to give you high-quality, relevant, and useful information, you’ve got to do the work.

In this tutorial, we'll explore:

  • Why prompts matter
  • What makes a prompt great,
  • How you can craft prompts that get you the results you're looking for.

We’ve included some examples too, to inspire you.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding prompts and their significance

In the context of AI assistants like Claude, ChatGPT, and others, a prompt refers to the question or instruction you provide to initiate the conversation. The way you formulate your prompts can significantly influence the quality and relevance of the responses you receive.

Here's why prompts are so crucial:

  1. Establishing the foundation: Your prompt acts as the groundwork for the entire interaction. It communicates to the AI assistant the type of assistance you require and the kind of response you expect.
  2. Providing essential information: The effectiveness of an AI assistant's responses largely depends on the amount of context and detail you include in your prompt. This is particularly crucial when dealing with intricate or specialised subjects.
  3. Influencing the output: The phrasing and specificity of your prompt directly impact the nature of the AI's response. If you need a concise answer, make sure to specify that in your prompt. If you require a detailed, step-by-step explanation, communicate that upfront.
  4. Defining roles: Prompts allow you to assign specific roles to the AI, such as subject matter expert, collaborator, or advisor. This ensures that the responses align with your expectations and stay on topic.

Crafting effective prompts: Key elements to include

To create an effective prompt, consider incorporating the following:

  • Clearly define your objectives and requirements
  • Offer sufficient background information and context
  • Employ straightforward and concise language
  • Divide complex tasks into sequential steps
  • Indicate your preferred output format and style

Let's examine the essential components of a well-constructed prompt in more detail:

Specific objective or task: Clearly state the purpose of your prompt and what you want the AI to accomplish. Be as specific as possible.

Example prompt:

"Can you assist me in writing a 500-word blog post about the advantages of meditation for reducing stress?"

Relevant context and background: Supply the AI with any key information, such as target audience, specific requirements, or limitations, to ensure a tailored response.

Example prompt:

"I'm preparing a presentation for a high school biology class on the structure and function of plant cells. Could you provide a detailed explanation appropriate for this audience?"
💡 Tip: Initiate your prompts with "As an expert in [field], your task is to [objective]" to establish a clear context, role, and purpose. This enables the AI to deliver focused, domain-specific, and authoritative responses catered to your needs.

Example prompt:

"As an expert nutritionist with experience in meal planning, your task is to develop a 7-day meal plan for a client aiming to lose weight while maintaining a balanced diet."

Desired format and style: If you have a specific format or writing style in mind for the output, specify it in the prompt. This may include tone, language style, or structural preferences.

Example prompt:

"Please create a Python script that generates the Fibonacci sequence up to the 20th number. Include explanatory comments for each step."

By incorporating these key elements into your prompts, you'll effectively convey your requirements, leverage the AI's extensive knowledge base, and obtain high-quality, pertinent, and valuable responses that align with your specific objectives.

Let's explore some examples to see how these elements come together in practice.

Examples of well-written prompts for various tasks


As an expert nutritionist, your task is to create a personalised meal plan for me, a 30-year-old woman aiming to lose 10 pounds while maintaining a balanced, vegetarian diet. Please include:

A 7-day meal plan with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks

Nutritional information for each meal

A grocery list for the week

Three healthy dessert options to satisfy cravings

Please ensure that the plan is easy to follow and uses recipes that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

Travel guide:

As an experienced travel guide, your task is to plan a 5-day family holiday to Orlando, Florida for a family of four, including two children aged 8 and 12. Please provide:

Family-friendly accommodations near the main attractions

A daily itinerary featuring theme parks, outdoor activities, and educational experiences

Restaurant recommendations catering to various dietary needs

Strategies for navigating crowds and optimising our time

Please consider the budget and offer cost-saving suggestions where applicable.

Project planning:

As an expert project manager, your task is to develop a project plan for a new mobile app - a task management tool designed for remote teams. The project has a 6-month timeline. Please include:

A breakdown of the project into key phases and milestones

A list of required resources, including team members and their roles

A risk assessment and mitigation strategy

A communication plan for stakeholder updates

Please use a professional tone and incorporate relevant project management terminology.

Content writing:

As an expert data scientist, your task is to create a beginner's guide to machine learning in the form of a 1000-word blog post. Please cover the following:

An introduction to machine learning and its applications

The three main types of machine learning: supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning

A brief explanation of neural networks and deep learning

Two real-world examples of machine learning in action

A conclusion discussing the future potential of machine learning

Please use a friendly, informative tone suitable for readers with no prior knowledge of the subject. Include brief explanations of key terms and concepts.

Data analysis:

As a skilled data analyst, your task is to present insights from our latest customer survey, which covers product satisfaction, customer service, and brand loyalty. Please:

Identify the top 3 key findings from the survey data

Create visualisations (e.g., charts, graphs) to effectively communicate the insights

Provide recommendations for improving our products and customer experience based on the findings

Outline a plan for continuously monitoring and analysing customer feedback

Please use a clear, concise, and data-driven approach in your analysis and presentation.

Financial analysis:

As a seasoned financial analyst, your task is to assess the viability of a potential acquisition target. Please provide:

A comprehensive financial statement analysis (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow)

Key financial ratios and benchmarks against industry peers

A SWOT analysis highlighting the target company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

A discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation model with sensitivity analysis

A recommendation on whether to proceed with the acquisition based on the analysis

Please use a professional and objective tone, supporting your conclusions with relevant data and insights.

HR policy update:

As an experienced HR manager, your task is to update our company's remote work policy post-pandemic. Please provide:

An assessment of the benefits and challenges of remote work for our organisation

Clear guidelines on eligibility, expectations, and performance management for remote employees

Recommendations for maintaining team cohesion and company culture in a hybrid work environment

A plan for addressing potential legal and security risks associated with remote work

A timeline for implementing the updated policy and communicating it to employees

Please use a clear, concise, and empathetic tone that balances employee well-being with organisational goals.

These examples showcase how to create well-structured prompts that offer clear objectives, necessary context, desired formats, and step-by-step instructions. By following this approach, you enable the AI to generate high-quality, relevant, and actionable responses.

Common prompt-writing pitfalls and how to avoid them

When crafting prompts for AI assistants, it's easy to make mistakes that can lead to suboptimal or irrelevant responses. Here are some common pitfalls and tips for avoiding them:

  • Ambiguous objectives: Clearly define specific goals and desired outcomes.
  • Insufficient context: Provide relevant background information and constraints.
  • Unclear instructions: Break down complex tasks into clear, step-by-step guidance.
  • Unspecified format: Clearly state your expectations for structure, style, and length.
  • Inconsistent tone: Maintain a consistent and appropriate tone throughout the prompt.
  • Information overload: Keep prompts concise and focused, avoiding unnecessary details.
  • Neglecting the audience: Tailor the language and complexity of your prompt to the intended audience.
  • Disregarding constraints: Address any time, budget, or resource limitations upfront.
  • Omitting expertise: Use "As an expert in [field]" to establish context and expectations.
  • Skipping proofreading: Review your prompts for clarity, coherence, and typos before submitting.

While this list may seem extensive, experimenting with different prompt formats can help you understand how the quality of your input affects the quality of the output. Remember, the more effort you put into crafting your prompts, the better results you'll achieve.

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