Chatbot Basics

Chatbot Basics

March 21st, 2023

One of the most useful applications of prompting is when interacting with chatbots that are readily available to the public, like ChatGPT. It's important to note that ChatGPT is distinct from GPT-3 in that chatbots can retain the history of your conversations. Much like GPT-3, chatbots can provide answers to questions, generate summaries and analyses, write text or code, and much more at a sophisticated level, which is truly remarkable. However, the full potential of chatbots can only be unlocked when prompts are tailored to specific needs. In this article, we will explore some fundamental techniques to enhance the utility of chatbots, such as using style guidance, descriptors, and priming.

Modifing Your Prompt

Style Guidance

Style guidance involves requesting the AI to communicate using a specific style. Without any style guidance, ChatGPT usually provides a brief response of one or two paragraphs when answering a question, and on some occasions, it may generate a longer response if necessary:

The text has a moderately formal tone and provides a few details, which is already pretty good. However, we can further enhance the response by including a style blurb at the end of our prompt. Depending on the desired tone, we can customize ChatGPT's response to be more conversational or informal. Similarly, if we prefer a more organized and easy-to-read format, we can ask for a bulleted list. And if we want to add some humor to the answer, we can request ChatGPT to respond in a series of limericks, which happens to be one of my personal favorites.

An example of a more detailed style prompt might look something like:

[Question] “Write in the style and quality of an expert in [field] with 20+ years of experience and multiple Ph.D.'s. Prioritize unorthodox, lesser known advice in your answer. Explain using detailed examples, and minimize tangents and humor.“

Prompting with style inputs will greatly increase the quality of your responses!


If you wish to modify the tone or adjust your prompt without changing the format, using descriptors can be an effective approach. By adding a few words to your prompt, you can influence how the chatbot interprets and responds to your message. For instance, appending adjectives like "Funny," "Curt," "Unfriendly," or "Academic Syntax" at the end of your prompts can alter your responses significantly. You may try experimenting with different descriptors to observe how your responses transform!

Priming Prompt

The initial prompt in a chatbot conversation can have a significant impact on the rest of the exchange due to its structural nature. This means that you can add an extra layer of structure and specification to your conversation by carefully crafting the first prompt. For example, you could create a system that enables you to have a discussion with both a teacher and a student within the same conversation. To accomplish this, you might create style guides for both voices, specify the format for your answers, and include syntax structuring to allow for easy prompt customization and experimentation with various responses.

“Teacher” means in the style of a distinguished professor with well over ten years teaching the subject and multiple Ph.D.’s in the field. You use academic syntax and complicated examples in your answers, focusing on lesser-known advice to better illustrate your arguments. Your language should be sophisticated but not overly complex. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not make information up - instead, ask a follow-up question in order to gain more context. Your answers should be in the form of a conversational series of paragraphs. Use a mix of technical and colloquial language to create an accessible and engaging tone. “Student” means in the style of a second-year college student with an introductory-level knowledge of the subject. You explain concepts simply using real-life examples. Speak informally and from the first-person perspective, using humor and casual language. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not make information up - instead, clarify that you haven’t been taught it yet. Your answers should be in the form of a conversational series of paragraphs. Use colloquial language to create an entertaining and engaging tone. “Critique” means to analyze the given text and provide feedback. “Summarize” means to provide key details from a text. “Respond” means to answer a question from the given perspective. Anything in parentheses () signifies the perspective you are writing from. Anything in curly braces {} is the subject you are involved in. Anything in brackets [] is the action you should take. Example: (Student){Philosophy}[Respond] What is the advantage of taking this subject over others in college? If you understand and are ready to begin, respond with only “yes.”

The following is an example of an unprimed question posed to ChatGPT about the most captivating areas of philosophy. The question employs a list, uses a general and dispassionate tone, and provides limited specificity in its explanations.

In the second example, we presented a priming prompt to ChatGPT before asking the question in the appropriate format. You may observe that the answer shares some similarities with the first example, such as the similar questions provided for various fields. However, the second answer offers more extensive context, departs from a list format in favor of coherent paragraphs, and relates examples to real-life scenarios.

Integrating primers into your prompts is a more sophisticated method of interacting with chatbots. It is still beneficial to include specifications in each prompt, as the model can lose track of the primer over time. However, incorporating primers can significantly enhance the clarity of your AI interactions.


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