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How to write AI prompts that get results

Best practices

The arrival of generative AI has rapidly changed the way we generate content. With the right approach, integrating AI writing tools into your content production allows you to speed up and streamline your process. At the basis of it all are prompts, which are the blueprint that guides the AI tool towards creating content you are proud to publish on your website.  

In this article, we will explore the best practices for writing AI prompts and help you maximise the potential of AI-generated content for your own content strategy. 

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What are AI prompts?

Prompts are the instructions provided to an AI model that allow it to generate an output. It can be something as basic as “write two marketing emails” or a more detailed request like “craft a step-by-step guide for creating an effective social media marketing campaign for an ecommerce website”. 

Prompts play a key role in shaping the tone, style, and content of the AI-generated material, so it’s very important to understand what goes into writing a good AI prompt to produce the outcome you desire.   

Let’s look closely into what makes a prompt effective and how to ensure that yours produces the high-quality content you are looking for. 

The basic template for AI prompts

There is a basic set of elements that you must include to receive an outcome in line with your idea. Your prompts should contain:   

  • The goal: Clearly define the goal of the content. Do you want an outline, an article, an email, a product description? Clearly defining the desired output helps the AI understand what you are looking for.  
  • Provide background and context: The more details you provide, the more likely the AI will produce the sought-after result. 
  • Tone and voice: You can specify whether the content should be formal, informal, persuasive, instructional, or any other style that suits your purpose.  
  • Structure: Add any formatting needs you may have. For example, do you need something in bullet point format or a specific number of headings and paragraphs?   
  • Ask it to roleplay: You can get better results if you are specific in how the AI should ‘think’. Would you like the AI to provide information as an expert marketer, or to write as a journalist?  

Now that we’ve covered the essential parts of a prompt, let’s break it down into specifics so you learn the most effective ways to engage with an AI model.  

How to get the most out of AI tools with a well-written prompt

Although writing a basic prompt is simple, it’s important to understand how the AI thinks and have a strategy for creating well-developed prompts that help the AI bring out its best work. We’ll now walk through the elements of a prompt and provide valuable tips to help you refine and improve your prompts for more exceptional AI-generated content. 

Know your writing assistant 

There are differences among the AI tools on the market. Some function fully as chatbots, offering real-time conversational interactions, while others are more of an assistive tool, with more limited capabilities. There can also be differences in paid versus free versions of different tools. For example, the paid tiers of some tools help with prompt-writing by providing templates or options, so you should be fully aware of what is available to you. 

Write clearly

You need to make it easy for the AI tool to understand what you want. Cut out any excess text and get to the point when working on your prompts. Providing a concrete output is crucial so the AI can produce what you want to see.  

If you’re not happy with the results the AI is producing, consider testing out different verbs. Using stronger or more descriptive verbs can help. Instead of using generic verbs like ‘write’ or ‘give’, test out more direct or explanatory verbs like ‘condense’, ‘elaborate’, ‘synthesise’, etc.  

Another trick is avoiding repetition, which can confuse the AI and lead to more work and poorer results. Ensure that your prompts are free of repetitive phrasing or instructions. As always, keeping your prompt clear and to-the-point is the goal.  

Speak conversationally

When working with generative AI, it’s useful to consider it a conversation. If you approach the tool as a collaborator in your work, it helps form a more natural connection and makes it easier for you to convey your ideas to the AI. Conversational language lends itself to clarity and simplicity, which helps ensure that your prompts are understood effectively. 

Treating your interaction with AI as a conversation creates a better environment for idea exchange and brainstorming. This means that, beyond just prompting the AI to generate content, you can bounce ideas off the AI, receive instant feedback, and refine your thoughts collaboratively. 

Provide context and details

Imagine you were being given instructions for a writing assignment. What would you prefer to receive – a very basic, generic, one-sentence directive, or a well-developed brief with the exact requirements noted down? You would most likely prefer to work from the fleshed-out brief. Similarly, the AI works better if you provide a prompt rich in details and context.  

Think about the human outcome of these two instructions: 

The first instructions are short and vague. If you gave this to, for example, a colleague, they would most likely need to ask follow-up questions. With the second, more detailed brief, they would most likely be able to write a decent draft for an email.  

As you write your prompt, ask yourself if a human would need additional support or have many follow-up questions. If so, add the information they would need to the prompt.  

You should also specify the tone of voice you prefer. Add the tone you would like to see, as with “upbeat and customer-centric” in the above example.  

Specify the length and keep it focused

An important factor in writing effective AI prompts is being specific about the desired length of the content. When your prompt includes clear length instructions, it ensures that the AI delivers content tailored to your needs and helps stop it from rambling or providing excessive, irrelevant information. 

For instance, if you need a short and tidy 300-word product description, specifying the word count in your prompt helps the AI understand your need for conciseness. If, on the other hand, you require a 2.000-word blog post, the AI will recognise the requirement for a more in-depth exploration of the topic.  

Without clear length instructions, there’s a risk that the AI might produce content that strays far away from your needs, either by being too wordy or too brief. 

It’s also worth noting that excessive prompt length can create new challenges. When a prompt is too long or contains too many details, the AI may struggle to maintain focus, potentially leading to what some refer to as “hallucination,” where the AI produces incorrect or just strange content. Striking the right balance by providing clear and reasonable length instructions helps ensure the AI generates content that is both informative and coherent. 

If, despite your efforts, the AI’s answer doesn’t meet your requirements, it’s fine to regenerate the response. Take it as an opportunity to refine and clarify your prompt or redirect the AI’s focus until you get a result you’re satisfied with. By actively managing the AI’s focus and quality, you can ensure the generated content remains relevant, accurate, and aligned with your content objectives. 

Be aware that the AI will lose awareness of your existing conversation if you close out of the window. To continue working on the same project, it’s important that you remain on the same page. 

Accuracy concerns

To prevent issues with accuracy, carefully review any sources or citations provided by the AI. Verifying the reliability of sources ensures that the content is based on credible information. You can ask the AI direct questions to get to its sources, such as “where did you find this data?” or “please provide me the link to this information.” If it provides you with a citation or an article name, make sure to double-check its existence before accepting it as a source.  

Mastering prompts: the key to success with AI tools

Generative AI tools have become invaluable collaborators in content creation. To maximise the usefulness of these tools, it’s vital to develop skills in writing effective AI prompts. Providing clear, detailed instructions is key to getting good results. 

You don’t need to become an expert AI prompt engineer to write thoughtful and productive prompts. By thinking through your approach and understanding the importance of clarity, specificity, and providing context, you can speed up your content production and create content that exceeds your expectations.  

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