A Beginner’s Guide to Engineering Prompts in ChatGPT and AI Tools

Reluctant to use AI? Need help figuring out where to start? Read our prompt engineering guide to learn the basics and practical use cases.
Matthew Ritchie
May 18, 2023
10 minute read

It only took a few months for prompt engineering to evolve from a practice few understood to one of the most in-demand skills in the modern workforce.

Since the runaway adoption of OpenAI’s ChatGPT this past November, the ability to engineer prompts and use generative AI tools has quickly become “the most important job skill of this century.” 

Already, there are job postings promising six-figure salaries for successful prompt engineers, and many roles now require a basic understanding of how to engineer prompts. 

Experts say that communicating effectively with AI will soon become an “overlay for not only search engines, but also creative work, busywork, memo writing, research, homework, sketching, outlining, storyboarding, and teaching.”

But despite its widespread popularity, some are still in the dark when it comes to engineering prompts in ChatGPT and other AI tools.

The good news: you don’t need to write code (although having some technical expertise helps) to communicate effectively with AI.

“The hottest new programming language is English,” Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s former chief of AI, recently joked in a Tweet.

At Bloks, generative AI is a core element of our solution—we even recently added the ability to transform notes into blog posts, tweets, LinkedIn posts, emails, or anything else you dream up.

Professional prompt engineers are notoriously protective of the prompts they create. But to get the most out of Bloks and similar tools, it pays to know how to write and refine AI text prompts to get the results you want.

Whether you’re a total newbie, a self-taught pro looking to level up, or someone who's simply curious, here are some prompt engineering best practices and practical tips to keep in mind when creating prompts.

1. Be Descriptive

The biggest mistake people make when writing their first prompts is being too vague.

Ask an AI tool like Bloks to write you a “cold sales email,” and what comes out will be long-winded, generic, and meaningless—sort of like this.

But, in the words of ‘90s one-hit wonders New Radicals, with ChatGPT and other tools, you get what you give.

Being specific, descriptive, and as detailed as possible will lead to better results when using generative AI tools.

Focus on the tone, output length, format, intended audience, and any other information you think is worth including to provide the system with enough context to reach your desired outcome.

Now, we’re getting somewhere.

2. Get rid of fluffy, unnecessary words

As much as you want to be descriptive, you don’t want to go overboard when writing your prompts because it could send the AI down the wrong path.

Here’s an example I’ve adapted from OpenAI:

Say you’re a marketer creating a product description for a ceramic coffee filter. 

You make a prompt that says: “Write a description for a ceramic coffee filter. The description for this product should be fairly short, a few sentences only, and not too much more.”

The description will be decent, but anytime you regenerate a response, the description’s number of sentences and sentence length will fluctuate.

If you want the output to be more precise, change the second sentence to “describe this product in three sentences,” and you’ll get exactly that—a three-sentence product description.

That may seem like a small change, but the results can be widely different if you leave the language in your prompts up to interpretation.

Ambiguous language—like, in the example above, “fairly short,” “a few sentences,” and “not too much more”—opens AI tools up to endless possibilities. 

Removing adverbs (e.g., “fairly”), adding constraints (e.g., “three sentences” instead of “a few sentences”), and reducing ambiguity (e.g., “not too much”) will make your output more precise and concise.

Need a tip that's simpler? Prompt engineer Anna Bernstein says to contain the main focus of your task within the verb. So, instead of saying, “rewrite this to be shorter,” write, “condense this.”

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Roleplay

This is one of my favourite strategies, especially if you want to spice up your writing (like emails, blogs, social media posts, etc.) or need help understanding a complex topic.

When prompting Bloks, ChatGPT, or another large language model, give it a role and clarify the output’s intended audience.

This is incredibly helpful when I hear words or phrases in meetings I don’t understand.

For instance, working at a startup, I hear a lot of technical terms. 

When Bloks spits out our meeting transcriptions and summaries, I can copy a phrase, prime the AI by giving it a role, audience, and additional context, and ask it to explain it in layperson’s terms, so I know what people are talking about without doing research outside of the app or asking someone to explain it to me.

Here’s an example:

Someone in our weekly meeting was talking about Python the other day. I had no idea what that was (being a bit of a Luddite, I assumed some type of programming language).

My initial prompt didn’t give me the answers I was looking for…

So, I gave the AI a role and set up a scenario to help it explain what Python was to me in basic terms…

Much better.

This strategy can be used in lots of helpful—even ridiculous—scenarios outside of simple questions and answers.

Ohhh yeahhh!

4. Get Your Prompts in Order

To be fair, this is more important to consider when using AI that generates images, but the order in which you present information in a prompt impacts the output in subtle ways.

Take Midjourney, for instance.

If you write a prompt that says, “Maverick and Goose from Top Gun high-fiving while playing volleyball,” you’ll get something like this…

But, if you move the word “goose” after the word “high-fiving,” you’ll probably get this…

The order matters. Microsoft suggests “telling the model the task you want it to do at the beginning of the prompt, before sharing additional contextual information or examples” to get higher-quality outputs.

And, to prevent recency bias, which large language models can be susceptible to, try repeating instructions at the end of your prompt to emphasize the main task you want to be completed. 

Afterward, check the output and adjust it if necessary.

5. Add Clear Syntax

Unlike AI tools that generate images, like DALL-E and Midjourney, it’s better to use clear syntax when creating your prompts instead of listing off a bunch of keywords.

Use proper punctuation, section markers, and headings, so it’s easier for tools like ChatGPT or Bloks to understand your prompt.

Do this:

Not this:

6. Provide More Context

When engineering any kind of prompt, the more context you can provide, the better.

In fact, all of the tips above, in some ways, are about providing context—giving the AI enough (and the right types of) information to help it complete the task successfully.

When structuring your prompts, the input you provide makes all the difference, and prompt engineers often rely on at least one of the following strategies—priming (mentioned in passing above), one-shot prompting, and few-shot prompting—to get what they’re looking for.


Using the tips I’ve already written about above, I prompted ChatGPT and asked it to explain each concept I just mentioned in more detail.

Here’s what it said (read it out loud in a robotic voice if you want to feel like you’re in an episode of Black Mirror):

Zero-shot prompting: In a zero-shot prompt scenario, you give the AI model a new task without any prior examples or context. It's like a cold call, where the model relies solely on its pre-existing training. For example, you might ask, “Can you create a checklist of key metrics an early-stage startup CEO should track regularly?”

Priming: Priming sets the stage by giving the AI model a specific role or background, helping generate more relevant responses. For instance, “Imagine you're a successful entrepreneur who has launched multiple successful startups. Based on your experience, what are the most common pitfalls an early-stage startup CEO should avoid?”

One-shot prompting: In this method, you provide the AI model with a single example of the task before asking it to perform the task. For example, “Here's an example of a successful elevator pitch: 'Our company, X, has developed a unique AI solution that can double the efficiency of logistics operations. We're seeking $2M in funding to expand our market reach.' Now, can you help create an elevator pitch for a startup offering an innovative renewable energy solution?”

Few-shot prompting: Similar to one-shot prompting, but with multiple examples to better illustrate the task. This could look like, “Here are three examples of mission statements from successful tech startups: 1) 'To make the world more open and connected.' - Facebook. 2) 'To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.' - Tesla. 3) 'To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.' - Google. Now, can you help create a mission statement for an early-stage startup focused on AI in healthcare?”

Using Conversational Context: If you're in a conversation with the AI, prior interactions are used as context. For example, if you ask, “What are some effective growth strategies for early-stage startups?” and then follow up with, “Which of these strategies is best suited for a SaaS company?”, the model understands that “these strategies” refer to the growth strategies previously mentioned. 

7. Iterate

Chances are you won’t get what you want on your first try. 

A lot of prompt engineering is trial and error. You’ll need to write your prompt, see the results, and refine your prompt to get what you’re requesting or picturing in your head.

When I asked ChatGPT if it had any tips for refining prompts, it suggested the following:

  • Trying multiple prompt variations to identify which phrasing or approach yields the best results
  • Reviewing past conversations with the AI to identify successful and unsuccessful prompt strategies
  • Asking follow-up questions to clarify, expand, or narrow down the AI's responses
  • Leveraging diverse perspectives from co-workers to further refine your prompts and adjust their clarity and focus

But truthfully, it’s a lot of guesswork. 

(Stay up-to-date with best practices by reading message boards, newsletters, guides, and social media threads—we even share some on Twitter and LinkedIn occasionally.)

8. Be Prepared to Forget Everything You Just Learned

AI is evolving so fast it’s possible that these kinds of text-heavy strategies won’t exist in a few years or even a few months.

Just look at how the output from the same prompt—“Captain Jack Sparrow”—has evolved in Midjourney from V1 to V5.

Until then, though, it's important to know the fundamentals.

But contrary to what the hucksters selling e-books with titles like “1001 Prompts That Will MAKE YOU RICH” for $4.99 suggest, the average person doesn’t need to be an expert at engineering prompts to get the most out of ChatGPT and other AI tools like Bloks. You can get by with just the basics.

And with that, we hope you enjoyed this guide. 

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future blog posts, msg us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

And, if you still haven’t downloaded Bloks, request access (it’s free).

Whether you’re a sales superstar, in-demand consultant, busy recruiter, or someone who simply needs to schedule a lot of meetings, one thing’s for sure—you’ve probably booked a lot of them over the past two years.

Hybrid work has forced the majority of our meetings online, and while we appreciate being able to wear sweatpants during normal work hours, the time-consuming ballet that is sharing your availability, finding a time to meet, and adding it to your calendar isn’t quite as enjoyable. 

Speaking with everyone from solopreneurs to seasoned professionals, it seems like a lot of people find meeting scheduling software either costly, impersonal, or just plain boring. And Calendly and other alternatives don’t always cut it.

We hear you. 

Everyone is different, and so is how they work. Making good first impressions is important, and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them or basic customizations and integrations with your meeting booking system.

Nook Calendar’s meeting proposal feature is already used by tons of high-performing teams for selecting and proposing meeting times outside of their organization. 

Now, we’re making things even easier by letting you build personal pages with shareable calendar-booking links, right in Nook Calendar. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, email signature, website, or messages when finding a time to meet.

We think it’s the best meeting scheduling software out there, and we’re excited for you to give it a try, so let’s get started.

Here’s How to Set Up a Personal Booking Page in Nook Calendar

First off, if you’re new to Nook Calendar—hello! (If you’re already a Nook user, you can skip ahead.)

You’re going to start by syncing your calendar—either from Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook—and entering your work email address.

Once you approve any necessary permissions, you’ll set up your People Bar. Search for any connections and add the people you interact with the most when scheduling meetings.

From there, you can add any additional calendars you want to see (add your personal one, if you like, to further prevent any overlaps when scheduling meetings), integrate with Zoom (so you can launch calls straight from your calendar), and choose your preferred display setting—select Match OS, Light Mode, or Dark Mode.

Launch Nook Calendar, and you’re ready to set up your online meeting scheduler.

Now, the fun begins

You’re going to start by claiming your unique URL for sharing your meeting availability page. 

Your first name appears by default, but really, it can be anything. We recommend using your full name (e.g., /john-smith).

(You can always change your URL in the future, as long as it’s still available.)

From there, you want to complete your profile. 

Your profile pic is automatically pulled in from your Microsoft or GCal account.

But you can add your name, job title, welcome message, and links to social media profiles or professional website, so guests know a bit more about you when booking a meeting. 

Then, you can start setting your weekly availability.

Nook Calendar defaults to traditional time blocks—9–12 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. These are the hours someone can book a meeting from your personal page. Adjust them based on your availability. 

Your timezone is automatically set to your local time, but you can change it if you primarily work with people in a different timezone and it’s better to visualize that when setting your availability.

Choose which calendar you want to accept meetings in—it can only be booked in one, but Nook Calendar will automatically reference your availability in other calendars you’ve synced to prevent double-bookings when someone schedules a meeting.

Now, it’s time to set up some paramaters. 

You can set up your preferred meeting duration in either 15, 30, 45-minute or one-hour increments (or a custom time).

You can also add buffer time to give yourself a break between meetings, or set a lead time of up to 24 hours, so no one can book any last-minute meetings.

And you’re all set! You can preview what the page will look like, then share it with contacts or add it to your LinkedIn profile (we suggest adding it as a secondary URL), email signature, and anywhere else you do business.

Once someone books time in your calendar, you’ll receive an email and get a notification in the Pulse.

If you ever need to make any changes, you can access your personal meeting page in the bottom of the Magic Panel and make any adjustments—either to your weekly availability or personal information.

You can also remove your availability by simply creating events in Nook Calendar and marking them as Busy to block off time and prevent any bookings.

Nook Calendar’s new personal pages for sharing meeting availability are available on Web, iOS, and Android. 
If you have any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Hit us up in our Slack Community or contact us through Support.