Prompts to Try Asking ChatGPT

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The people who are getting the most out of the chatbots have been using variants of these strategies:

“Act as if.” Beginning your prompt with these magic words will instruct the bot to emulate an expert. For example, typing “Act as if you are a tutor for the SATs” or “Act as if you are a personal trainer” will guide the bots to model themselves around people in those professions.

These prompts provide additional context for the A.I. to generate its response. The A.I. doesn’t actually understand what it means to be a tutor or a personal trainer. Instead, the prompt is helping the A.I. to draw on specific statistical patterns in its training data.

A weak prompt with no guidance will generate less helpful results. If all you type is “What should I eat this week?” the chatbot will come up with a generic list of meals for a balanced diet, such as turkey stir fry with a side of colorful veggies for dinner (which, to me, sounds very “meh”).

“Tell me what else you need to do this.” To get results that are more personalized — for example, health advice for your specific body type or medical conditions — invite the bot to request more information.

In the personal trainer example, a prompt could be: “Act as if you are my personal trainer. Create a weekly workout regimen and meal plan for me. Tell me what else you need to do this.” The bot might then ask you for your age, height, weight, dietary restrictions and health goals to tailor a weeklong meal plan and fitness routine for you.

If you don’t get good answers on your first try, don’t give up right away. Better yet, in the words of Ethan Mollick, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, treat the bot as if it were a human intern: “When it makes a mistake, point that out and ask for it to do better.” Be forgiving and patient, and you’re likely to get better results.

After you get the hang of prompts, you can make your chatbot more helpful over time. The key here is to avoid treating your chatbot as a web search and starting with a fresh query each time. Instead, keep several threads of conversations open and add to them over time.