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How to write prompts for ChatGPT that kickstart content creation

Published August 2nd, 2023

 19 min read

You’ve hired a new writer. You’re excited about them creating some great content. But for some reason they’re just not “getting it”. The content is either off-topic, not in your brand voice, or doesn’t fit the structure you were expecting. What's the problem? Like all content creation – human or AI-driven – it comes down to the brief that’s been given. A poor brief (or prompt in the case of AI) delivers poor content.

John Rau

Product Marketing at TinyMCE


If you’ve tried using ChatGPT to kickstart your content creation work, you’ve likely encountered a similar situation. An expert writer needs to be briefed properly, as does the generative AI tool you’re using, via your prompts. In both cases, you need to provide the right background and context information, so the outcomes are better matched to your needs and useful in achieving your goals.

To help you brief your AI assistant more effectively, and receive better responses, this article outlines some best practices, tips and techniques so you’ll get the most out of using generative AI. Specifically, it covers the use of OpenAI’s GPT models (e.g. ChatGPT).

While there are many guides on the general use of ChatGPT this one focuses on using ChatGPT to start the content creation process – for web pages, blog posts, product descriptions, emails and more – and help to spark your creativity, break down writer’s block, or or improve the readability of your content

First, let’s dive into what ChatGPT is, and how OpenAI fits into the picture.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot, developed by OpenAI, launched in November 2022. It runs on OpenAI’s GPT large language models (LLMs), which are machine learning models that understand and generate text in a human-like fashion.

ChatGPT can act like an assistant – to help you work through problems ranging from what to eat tonight (and how to cook it), to coding parts of an app, and yes, to creating your next piece of content.

Signing up for ChatGPT Is free and easy to do with your email address or Google account. Just go to the ChatGPT login page.

ChatGPT limitations

While ChatGPT and the underlying OpenAI models are extremely powerful, there are some limitations to using ChatGPT prompts to suggest content.

These are the most common ChatGPT limitations:

  • Training data cutoff = not update-to-date information

AI large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, need to be “trained” on data – typically information that’s been scraped from around the web – so they can generate useful content.


OpenAI’s GPT models on which ChatGPT is based, have a training data cutoff of September 2021. This means that ChatGPT is not aware of any events that occurred after this date. So if you need to create content based on recent events or developments, you may need to consider an alternative AI tool that’s been trained on more current information, or do additional research to supplement what's missing.

  • Hallucinations = invents facts, when answers are unknown

Yes, AI too, can hallucinate. Users have reported in cases where ChatGPT doesn’t know the answer, that it invents “facts” to answer questions. Therefore, it’s always a good rule of thumb to verify any claims or facts generated by ChatGPT, before publishing or sharing them.

Here’s an example of a ChatGPT hallucination. In the prompt and response below, ChatGPT correctly named the two co-founders of TinyMCE, but then tried to please me by adding a third, fictitious, founder with the same nickname as Guns N Roses’ lead vocalist. While the third name seems believable, what ChatGPT was trying to do is create a name that followed the same pattern of Swedish names, with nicknames.

  • Handling sensitive data = don’t tell it secret information

Just like those scary sci-fi movies have shown us, generative AI teaches and improves itself by constantly learning from the information people provide – whether that’s new information, or corrections to false information it provided. This means that whatever you tell ChatGPT, it can use to “train” itself to improve the accuracy of future responses and expand its knowledge base.

Samsung learnt this the hard way, when they discovered employees had pasted top-secret source code into ChatGPT, requesting the chatbot help optimize it. While ChatGPT does allow you to request your information not be used for training purposes, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

Never enter any proprietary, confidential or private information into ChatGPT, unless you’re ok with it being used to further train the AI model and that it’s likely to be used in other people’s responses.

How to write prompts for ChatGPT

Jakob Nielsen, cofounder of the renowned Nielsen Norman (NN/g) UX research group, believes that less than 20% of the population in the developed world is capable of writing effective prompts for generative AI systems. That means 80% of us are incapable of writing effective prompts.

Nielsen goes on to talk about the importance of having inbuilt pre-written prompts to help bridge the gap and empower everyone to leverage AI tools like ChatGPT.

That’s why it’s so important to understand how to write an effective ChatGPT prompt. Similarly to writing a brief (for anything), the amount of time and effort you invest in writing your prompt is paid off by the quality of response you get back.

But before we get into the laundry list of prompt writing best practices, let’s look at how to best write and refine your prompts as you build your prompt writing muscle.

Prompt writing lifecycle

Generative AI is still in its early days, and what works today, may not work tomorrow. That’s due to factors such as:

  • Improvements made to generative AI models
  • Evolving the thinking around the types of prompts that work best
  • Learning from the use of generative AI and how it works best with your business, industry or niche

Given AI’s rapidly changing and iterative nature, it’s best to establish a lifecycle for the prompts you write – to ensure they’re useful today, tomorrow and into the future. For example, this is the prompt engineering lifecycle used at Tiny:

For the foreseeable future, prompt writing is not a one-and-done work item. Most importantly, you should be regularly reviewing your prompts to see if they can be improved, to in turn optimize the responses you get back.

ChatGPT prompt guide

Now you understand how ChatGPT works, its limitations, and have a general framework for managing your prompt writing lifecycle, here are our battle-tested best practices for writing ChatGPT prompts for content generation.

Note: Due to the similarity of large language models (LLMs) and how they work, these best practices can likely also be utilized with the other generative AI tools.

1. More instruction gives better results

If there’s one key takeaway from this article, this is it. ChatGPT provides better content and ideas when it’s given clearer instruction, within your prompts.

If you know what you want, include it in your prompt.

The example below shows where ChatGPT was asked to create a blog post about cars. Because it’s such a broad topic, ChatGPT guessed what the post needed to cover. However the other prompt given was more specific, so the response was closer to what was needed.

Good ✅Bad ❌
You:

Write a blog post about cars and how they will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns
You:

Write a blog post about cars
ChatGPT:

Title: A Greener Road Ahead: How Cars Will Evolve to Tackle Climate Change

Introduction:
As the world grapples with the urgent need to combat climate change, the automotive industry finds itself at the forefront of a transformative era. Over the next decade, we can expect to witness a remarkable evolution in the automotive landscape, as vehicles adapt and embrace sustainable technologies to address climate change concerns. In this blog post, we will explore the various ways cars are set to change and the promising innovations that will drive us towards a greener future.

<Response continues…>
ChatGPT:

Title: The Evolution of Cars: A Journey through Time and Innovation

Introduction:
The automobile has undoubtedly revolutionized the way we travel, shaping our modern society and transforming the world as we know it. Over the past century, cars have evolved from simple horseless carriages to sophisticated, sleek machines equipped with cutting-edge technology. In this blog post, we will take a captivating journey through time, exploring the remarkable evolution of cars and the innovations that have propelled them forward.

<Response continues…>

2. Specify format and length

Always provide ChatGPT with the parameters of what you want to receive back. ChatGPT spits out something very different if you ask it to write a LinkedIn post instead of a blog post. You can even ask it to write in a specific format, such as HTML or Markdown.

Here’s another example, with the addition of parameters to our prompt. You can copy/paste the HTML into a web page and voila, it’s formatted for the web

You:

Write a blog post about cars and how they will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns. It should be 800-1,000 words in length and formatted as html.

ChatGPT:

<h1>A Greener Road Ahfead: How Cars Will Evolve to Tackle Climate
Change</h1>

<h2>Introduction</h2>

<p>As the world grapples with the urgent need to combat climate change, the automotive industry finds itself at the forefront of a transformative era. Cars, once emblematic of carbon emissions and pollution, are now poised to become an integral part of the solution. Over the next decade, we can expect to witness a remarkable evolution in the automotive landscape, as vehicles adapt and embrace sustainable technologies to address climate change concerns. In this blog post, we will explore the various ways cars are set to change and the promising innovations that will drive us towards a greener future.</p>

<Response continues…>

3. Write for your target audience

By default, ChatGPT attempts to write for a high-school reading level and generally tries to explain topics from scratch – it assumes the reader doesn’t have a deep knowledge of the topic.

For optimal results, you’d brief your writer on the target audience/reader, and similarly you can brief ChatGPT on the audience. In the example below, it’s been specified who to write for, and some characteristics around the type of content (scientific evidence) that the audience likes to read.

You:

Write a blog post about cars and how they will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns. Write for a PhD-level audience, and include calculations to help prove your arguments.

ChatGPT:

<Title & intro skipped>

Lightweight Materials and Aerodynamics

Lightweight materials such as carbon fiber composites and aluminum alloys can be used to reduce the weight of vehicles, resulting in lower energy consumption. Additionally, advanced aerodynamic designs can minimize drag and improve vehicle efficiency further.

Assuming a 10% reduction in vehicle weight and a 5% improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, a mid-size sedan consuming 6 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers could achieve fuel savings of approximately 0.9 liters per 100 kilometers. Extrapolating this across the global fleet of cars, the cumulative impact would be substantial, leading to reduced fuel consumption and associated emissions.

To calculate the fuel savings, we multiply the initial fuel consumption by the percentage reductions in weight and aerodynamic efficiency:

Weight reduction = 10% = 0.10

Aerodynamic improvement = 5% = 0.05

Fuel savings = Initial fuel consumption * (Weight reduction + Aerodynamic improvement)

= 6 liters * (0.10 + 0.05)

= 6 liters * 0.15

= 0.9 liters per 100 kilometers

<Response continues…>

Tip: You might have noticed that the prompt asked ChatGPT to show its calculations. Here’s why: ChatGPT is a Large Language Model, which means it does really well with text responses. However, it’s currently not great with math, and yes, it can hallucinate when it comes to calculations. By asking ChatGPT to show you the math behind its claims, it forces ChatGPT to do a sanity check on its math, and if it finds an error, it alerts you and corrects itself.

While this is a good safeguard, it’s still recommended to check the math behind any calculations yourself, to avoid any embarrassing results.

4. Provide a persona

For your content to more deeply appeal to your target audience, askChatGPT to take on a persona that your audience identifies with. Simply provide the persona at the beginning of your prompt, and any additional instructions you want it to follow.

You:

You are a climate change skeptic who has your own reservations, but are now convinced by the science that it is real. Write a blog post about cars and how they will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns. Address common climate change skepticisms to help formulate your arguments.

ChatGPT:

Title: Driving Towards a Sustainable Future: How Cars Will Evolve in the Face of Climate Change

Introduction:

In the battle against climate change, our understanding of the scientific consensus has shifted over time. As a former climate change skeptic, I once harbored reservations about the reality of this global crisis. However, upon delving deeper into the scientific evidence, I have come to embrace the reality of climate change. With this newfound understanding, it is crucial to explore the future of one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions: cars. In this blog post, we will examine how cars will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns and address common skepticisms along the way.

The Transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs):

One common skepticism revolves around the feasibility and affordability of electric vehicles. However, over the past few years, the electric vehicle market has experienced exponential growth, making EVs more accessible and cost-effective. As technology advances and economies of scale come into play, EVs are becoming increasingly competitive with traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. With reduced reliance on fossil fuels, EVs can significantly contribute to mitigating climate change.

<Response continues…>

5. Include SEO keywords

A key part to writing for the web is SEO, so that it can be discovered by your ideal reader. Once you’ve done your SEO research, include your keywords in the prompt. For illustration, the keywords we’ve requested are bolded in the ChatGPT response:

You:

Write a blog post about cars and how they will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns. For SEO purposes, use the primary keyword “cars and climate change” and the secondary keyword “electric vehicles”.

ChatGPT:

Title: Cars and Climate Change: The Evolution towards Electric VehiclIntroduction:

Introduction:

As the world grapples with the urgent need to combat climate change, the automotive industry is poised for a major transformation. Cars, a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, are set to evolve drastically over the next decade to address environmental concerns. This blog post delves into the future of cars in the context of climate change, with a specific focus on the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). Explore how EVs will revolutionize the automotive landscape, mitigate emissions, and pave the way for a sustainable transportation future.

<Response continues…>

6. Separate instructions from input

When you’re providing long, complex instructions to ChatGPT, you can separate the instructions (the actions you want ChatGPT to take) from the input (the content you want those actions to be performed on). This allows you to format your prompt in a cleaner way and provides ChatGPT with a clear delineation between instructions and input.

To do this, provide your instructions, and then wrap your input with
triple-quotes ( """ ), as shown in the example below.


Note: If you’re building a generative-AI enabled app with pre-written prompts, it also helps to separate the prompts from the user input.

You:

Write an 800-1,000 word blog post on the following topic, for a PhD-level audience:


"""How cars will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns"""

ChatGPT:

Title: The Future of Automobiles: Adapting to Climate Change Concerns

Introduction:

The specter of climate change looms large over our planet, compelling us to rethink and transform our approach to various industries, including transportation. As the world grapples with the urgency of reducing carbon emissions, the automotive industry is set to undergo a significant transformation over the next decade. In this article, we will explore how cars will evolve to adapt to climate change concerns, driven by technological advancements and shifting consumer demands.

<Response continues…>

7. Provide additional information

In your instructions, provide any key points you want ChatGPT to include, as well as writing style or tone. Here’s an example prompt and response, asking for an academic tone.

You:

Write an 800-1,000 word blog post on the following topic, for a PhD-level audience, in an academic tone.


Include the following points:
- Rising cost and scarcity of fossil fuels

- Increased global temperatures

- A third argument of your choice

"""How cars will evolve over the next decade to adapt to climate change concerns"""

ChatGPT:

Title: How Cars Will Evolve Over the Next Decade to Adapt to Climate Change Concerns

Introduction:

The pressing concerns of climate change have sparked a global shift towards sustainable practices and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Among the key contributors to carbon dioxide emissions are fossil fuel-powered vehicles. As we face the challenges of rising costs and scarcity of fossil fuels, increased global temperatures, and demand for intelligent transportation networks, the automotive industry is compelled to innovate and adapt. In this blog post, we will explore how cars are expected to evolve over the next decade to mitigate climate change concerns.

<Response continues…>

8. Strengthen your writing

ChatGPT can also be used to proofread and improve the content you’ve written. Aside from obvious things like grammar and spell checking, it can analyze complex arguments, identify weaknesses, and suggest ways to strengthen them:

You:

Analyze the following argument, identify any weaknesses or criticisms, and strengthen it:

"""Electric vehicles are the future because the climate is changing"""

ChatGPT:

The argument presented is that electric vehicles are the future because the climate is changing. While the argument suggests a connection between electric vehicles and climate change, it lacks specific evidence or reasoning to support this claim. Here is a breakdown of the weaknesses and suggestions to strengthen the argument:

Weaknesses/Criticisms:

Lack of causal relationship: The argument assumes a direct causal relationship between electric vehicles and climate change without providing any evidence or logical reasoning to support this connection. It is necessary to establish a clear link between the use of electric vehicles and their impact on mitigating climate change.

Incomplete analysis: The argument does not consider other factors that contribute to climate change, such as industrial emissions, deforestation, or energy generation methods. Focusing solely on electric vehicles oversimplifies the complex issue of climate change.

Limited scope: The argument does not acknowledge the current state of electric vehicle adoption or address potential challenges associated with widespread implementation, such as infrastructure development, battery production, or energy sources for charging.

Strengthening the argument:

To strengthen the argument that electric vehicles are the future because of climate change, it is important to provide additional supporting evidence and address the weaknesses mentioned.

Establish the environmental benefits:

Present scientific studies and research that demonstrate the environmental advantages of electric vehicles compared to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. Highlight their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and dependence on fossil fuels.

Emphasize the role of transportation in climate change:
Discuss the significant contribution of transportation to overall greenhouse gas emissions and the urgent need for sustainable solutions. Provide statistics and data to highlight the environmental impact of conventional vehicles.

<+3 more suggestions>

By addressing these weaknesses and incorporating these suggestions, the argument can be strengthened by providing a more comprehensive and evidence-based analysis of the relationship between electric vehicles and climate change.

<Response continues…>

9. Repurpose content

If you work in publishing or marketing, repurposing content for different formats, as well as different audiences is a useful practice. Yes, ChatGPT can also do that.

You:

Turn the following blog post into tweets, individually tailored for the following personas:

- Electric vehicle enthusiasts

- Climate change skeptics

- Gen Z-ers

"""<blog post content>"""

ChatGPT:

Tweet for Electric Vehicle Enthusiasts:

"🌿🚗 Embrace the revolution! Electric vehicles are set to soar in the next decade, offering longer range, better performance, and affordability. With expanding charging infrastructure and improved battery tech, EVs are the practical choice for a greener commute and long-distance travel. #ElectricVehicles #GreenTransportation"

Tweet for Climate Change Skeptics:

"🚘🌍 Cars are transforming to combat climate change. Lightweight materials and improved aerodynamics reduce emissions, while advanced energy storage options like hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors offer sustainability. It's time to recognize the positive impact cars can have in creating a greener future. #ClimateChangeSolutions"

Tweet for Gen Z-ers:

"🌱🚗 A greener road ahead! The automotive industry is evolving to tackle climate change. Get ready for a future of electric vehicles with better range, cooler designs, and affordability. Autonomous driving will make transportation efficient, while lightweight materials and renewable energy integration pave the way for sustainability. Let's drive towards a brighter, eco-friendly tomorrow! #GreenTransportation #SustainableFuture"

When asked to create social media posts, ChatGPT likes to include lots of emojis and leans towards the more cheesy side of the spectrum. Given the explosion in the usage of ChatGPT, that makes it very easy for people to pick out ChatGPT-generated posts. Make sure to apply your own touch to any AI generated social posts, or be more specific in the prompt instructions, so that it’s unique to your brand and its voice.

10. Provide feedback to ChatGPT

If ChatGPT’s response wasn’t what you wanted, ask it to try again. The more specific your feedback, the better a revision you’ll get. Below are some example feedback prompts, aimed at improving the ChatGPT generated content.

You (continuation of previous conversation):

I like the tweet for EV enthusiasts, but the other two could use some work. Feedback:

Climate change skeptics - try to acknowledge concerns more, and come across less patronizing

Gen Z-ers - less cheesy, more edgy but not so it sounds like your mother wrote it

ChatGPT:

Revised tweet for Climate Change Skeptics:

"🚘🌍 Cars are undergoing significant changes to address climate concerns. By embracing lightweight materials, improved aerodynamics, and advanced energy storage options, we can reduce emissions and promote sustainability. Let's recognize the potential positive impact cars can have in creating a greener future. #ClimateChange #GreenTransportation"

Revised tweet for Gen Z-ers:

"🌱🚗 Buckle up for a greener future! The automotive industry is leveling up to fight climate change. Electric vehicles with extended range and killer designs are on the rise. Get ready for efficient transportation powered by autonomy, lightweight materials, and renewable energy integration. Let's drive the change and rock a sustainable lifestyle! 🌍💚 #GreenRevolution #SustainableTransportation"

11. Always be testing and refining

As you master the art of prompt writing, you’ll undoubtedly discover more tips and tricks beyond what’s mentioned in this article. Be sure to incorporate your learnings into your future prompts, and (if you have one) your list of pre-written prompts. Make sure to go back, see what’s working and what’s not, and constantly improve your prompts. The results will pay back in dividends.

ChatGPT in your app

Did you know that TinyMCE, the world’s most trusted rich text editor, has an integration with ChatGPT? Check out the AI Assistant, which lets you add the power of generative AI, with pre-written prompts, into your content creation app. It’s included in your 14-day free trial when you sign up.

Remember – just like that new writer you hired, ChatGPT can be as powerful as you make it. The more information and expectations you feed it, the better content you’ll get back.

author

John Rau

Product Marketing at TinyMCE

A former developer, John works on the Marketing team at Tiny. When he's not spreading the word about TinyMCE, he enjoys taking things apart and *trying* to put them back together (including his house and anything else that looks interesting).

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