When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, our expectations for them sometimes exceed their capabilities. One example is ChatGPT, a language model that many of us expect to possess the ability to "think" rather than just "do." However, in reality, like any employee or intern, it needs the right training and guidance to be effective.
Initially, the author of this piece made the same mistake by providing poorly written, one-sentence prompts to ChatGPT and expecting exceptional results. They quickly learned that inadequate instructions resulted in unsatisfactory output. It was then they decided to change their approach and treat ChatGPT as their personal intern. By providing proper training to ChatGPT, they could equip themselves with the world's most skilled intern. Along the way, they discovered some essential tips.
The author found out that ChatGPT is not efficient at generating content "from scratch" when given vague instructions such as "Write me a Twitter thread on X," "Draft an email about Y," or "Come up with ideas about Z." This is because the AI has to make too many arbitrary decisions, leading to subpar output. Instead, the author learned to give ChatGPT three clear constraints in every prompt: a specific objective with input, a specific output format, and a specific list of things to avoid. The key takeaway is that prompt writing is an iterative process, requiring time to get it right. Once an effective and reliable prompt is crafted, it can be used indefinitely.
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The author discovered three effective ways to use ChatGPT. The first involves executing templates created by themselves. These templates are prompts that have been trained to generate specific outputs in a particular format. The author spent a significant amount of time training ChatGPT to generate ideas. They merely had to input a topic they wanted to explore, and ChatGPT generated two lists. The first list consisted of "actions" that someone interested in that topic might have questions about. The author's constraint was ensuring that each item in the list started with a verb, so they could write content that helps people achieve those actions. The second list consisted of subtopics, and ChatGPT prompted the author with three "questions" about each subtopic. By answering those questions, the author had content topics and could build comprehensive content pieces from the ground up. They could also repurpose each part of these content pieces into short-form content.
The second way the author utilized ChatGPT was for rewriting and remixing. Often, the author would find themselves stuck in a writing pattern and unable to explore alternative ways to convey an idea. ChatGPT proved to be a valuable tool in such scenarios. The author would write their initial draft and then have ChatGPT rewrite it in four specific ways. Firstly, they would ask ChatGPT to rewrite their writing with six different "tones," including formal, serious, sarcastic, optimistic, pessimistic, and lighthearted. Secondly, they would ask ChatGPT to rewrite their writing as seven different authors, such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Maya Angelou, George R.R. Martin, Winston Churchill, Brene Brown, J.K. Rowling, and Ernest Hemingway. Thirdly, they would ask ChatGPT to rewrite their writing with seven different "goals," such as more concise, emphatic, humorous, descriptive, persuasive, informative, and action-oriented. Lastly, they would request ChatGPT to rewrite their writing for seven different demographics, including third graders, eighth graders, college students, busy 40-year-old moms, an 80-year-old who reads slowly, and an audience where English is a second language.
Another way to use ChatGPT is to synthesize unstructured notes into a coherent output. Imagine having a collection of random notes from a meeting or brainstorming session and wanting to turn it into an organized and concise summary. By creating a clear prompt like this:
Objective: Create a bullet-point summary of the main takeaways from the meeting. Format: Bullet points, numbered. Avoid: Long sentences or paragraphs.
Then, by inputting the unstructured notes, ChatGPT generates a clean and organized summary. This can save hours of manual note organization.
In conclusion, ChatGPT is not a magic genie capable of fulfilling all our writing wishes. However, if we approach it as a trainable intern and invest time in creating clear and specific prompts, we can efficiently execute tasks using it. From executing templates to enhancing our writing and synthesizing unstructured notes, ChatGPT can be a valuable tool in our writing toolkit.