From rookie to advanced: 2 tips to improve your prompts instantly

Garbage in, is garbage out. Let's undress prompt engineering to what works

Are you struggling with AI and not experiencing that same mindblowing magic as others do? I can imagine AI is a challenge, that it can be overwhelming, and you don't know where to start. 

Working with AI is great and very powerful. It can enrich your output by 10x. Yet as for everything, also here, ‘sh*t is sh*t out’. The quality of the AI output is defined by the quality of your input, the prompt. 

→ How do you get from a plain prompt to really use AI to your advantage? 

Let’s get real about writing prompts and prompt engineering. It sounds complicated and expensive; in reality, it's nothing more than writing down your ask, undressed,  naked, and stripped of all jargon and buzz.  

On this page, I hope to inspire you to use AI, have some fun with it, and discover the possibilities and options. 

Humblebragging: everyone who attended my ‘AI and content’ workshop started using AI differently, with more pleasure and better output.

For simplicity, I’ll stick to ChatGPT on this page. There are many more LLMs (large language models), such as Bard, Meta, Alexa (voice control), CoPilot, and so on. The way you create your prompts is more or less the same for every LLM.

Here's what you'll learn on this page:

  1. What is a prompt, and what’s prompt engineering
  2. First tip: long, specific and detailed prompts
  3. Second tip: prompt on prompt chains
  4. Say ‘hi,’ ‘please’, and ‘thank you’
  5. Use your knowledge and creativity
  6. Use Custom Instructions
  7. Keep your prompting skills up to date

Let's go!


1. Decoding prompt engineering; the what and how 

What’s a prompt?
First, the basics. What is ‘prompt’? The prompt is your ‘ask’, the instruction you give; it is the words you type in ChatGPT to get output. It's the same as you do with keywords in Google, only now it’s in human language, more detailed and longer.

For every new ask to ChatGPT, you start a new chat. Don’t continue in your previous chat if the topics are not related. Open a new chat and start with a clean slate.


What’s prompt engineering?
Prompt engineering is the art of writing prompts. Sounds expensive and complicated; in practice, it’s playing around with prompts to get your desired output.

The better your prompts, the better the output. And this is why you’ll still have a job in a few years. All you need to do is to learn how to prompt, use your knowledge and expertise, and add some creative thinking. And you’ll set yourself apart from mediocracy and others who use AI.

The most important thing for the right prompt is that you have to know the problem you’re trying to solve.


AI and generative AI
For you, as a normal human being, marketer, or content maker, there’s no need to know the exact differences between both. 

All you need to know is that AI generates new content based on existing content. AI uses predictability and probability to answer your ask. 

ChatGPT echoes what’s already there — no new insights and strategies, unbiased without an own point of view.


Difference with Google search
And that’s the biggest difference with Google SEO. In Google, you search on a few keywords, get a list with websites and videos, and dive into those. In ChatGPT, you ask for information and inspiration, and, in a chitchat way of communication, you’ll get to your answer. You have to know where you’re heading, and along the way, ChatGPT feeds you with more information, things you never thought of, and together you dive into it.

ChatGPT and prompt engineering are less about the technology and more about the challenge or problem you’re trying to solve.


You can’t break AI
Don’t be afraid to play and fool around. The more fun you’re having, the easier it gets. It takes practice and time before you get it; you have to write your prompts to get your output.

The good news is that when you f*ck up, you can start over in a brand new chat.


2. First tip: writing effective prompts, length, and detail matter

Detailed prompts matter to get the right output. The more extended your prompt, the better it is. The more specific you are, the more accurate the output. 

Feed ChatGPT as if you’re talking to a 5-year-old; explain exactly what you want it to do, give details on how to execute it, and describe how you want it delivered.

There are so many formulas and models to write a prompt; this is my preferred one. I've seen this one somewhere online, I can't find the original source anymore. 

  1. Task: Clearly define your end goal. Here, you can add a specific channel for which you want to use the output; ‘Write this as a blog post for my newsletter,’ or ‘Write this as an Instagram feed post’.
    Example: ‘Write a short, friendly guide on how to bake chocolate chip cookies.’
  2. Context: tailor your response and give more details of the setting.
    Example: 'Considering a home baker's kitchen, write a guide on how to bake chocolate chip cookies.'
  3. Examples: give an example to mimic style, structure, and tone.
    Example: ‘Like a cooking show host, write a short, engaging guide on baking chocolate chip cookies.
  4. Persona: embody a specific expertise.
    Example: ‘As a professional baker, write a guide on how to bake perfect chocolate chip cookies.’
  5. Format: specify your output; bullet points, top list, table, etc. Here, you can also add ‘in 500 words’ to get something more in-depth. Or ‘in 50 words’ to get something short and sweet. 
    Example: ‘In a list format, write steps for baking chocolate chip cookies.
  6. Tone: add a layer of emotional context.
    Example: ‘With enthusiasm for baking, write a guide on making chocolate chip cookies, focusing on the joy of baking.

This results in your first prompt: 
Write a short, engaging guide on how to bake chocolate chip cookies as if you are a professional baker in a home kitchen setting. Use a list format to detail the steps and convey your deep enthusiasm and joy for baking throughout the guide.’


how to write a prompt


Clean and clear grammar
For your prompts, it’s important to use clear language and proper grammar so ChatGPT understands you. Of course, it can read over a typo, yet write your prompts in the same way you would ask a co-worker. Respectfully and with dignity.

The only exception is when you can use jargon in your prompt, such as when it’s very domain-specific, and you need this knowledge to write the right prompt.


Use ‘quotation marks’ where needed
Lastly, use ‘…’ to indicate specific words, examples, or text fragments you want to use for input. Using quotation marks helps AI to differentiate between your ask and your input.  

Example: how do you say in english 'start met een schone lei'


No need to squeeze all into your first prompt
There is no need to squeeze in all 6 elements in your first prompt. It's perfectly fine to get more detailed in your next prompt. Or to finetune the format of the output in the third prompt. Or even to specify the audience in the fourth. It's important that you cover all elements in your chain of prompts. 

I use Custom Instructions in ChatGPT-4 and define my tone and expertise there to personalize the output. That's why I can leave out tone and persona, as ChatGPT already has this information. 

→ This brings me to the next best practice, the chain of prompts: prompt on prompt. 


3. Second tip: prompt chaining for better output

The added value of AI is the conversation you’re having; ChatGPT is called like that for a reason: it’s a Chat you have with a Generative Pre-trained Transformer. Together, you dive into the topic and create an answer to your ask.  


Prompt on prompt
Simply said, you get your best output if you put a prompt on a prompt. There is no such thing as a one-perfect prompt to get your answer.

You have to break things down into smaller parts to get a thorough, narrow answer. You start big and explorative, and along the way, you get more specific and into details. Usually, my chats consist of a minimum of 3 to 5 prompts before I have my output. More often, it’s about 8 to 10 prompts to get really nerdy and detailed.

This is also why you need to start a new chat if your ask is about a different topic. Start with a clean slate.


Important last step
The last step in the process is that you make it yours and give it some more human touch. Copy-paste the output, edit, tune, tweak, and refine. 

You always do the final review yourself and never upload or publish non-reviewed AI content. People notice.

There’s no shame in using AI; there is shame in being lazy and making the output yours.

And as OpenAI itself states in every chat window, ‘ChatGPT can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.’ You are responsible for what you use and publish. Always check on validity and sanity.


Example: try it with these prompts 
Use this prompt: ‘Write a short, engaging guide on how to bake chocolate chip cookies as if you are a professional baker in a home kitchen setting. Use a list format to detail the steps and convey your deep enthusiasm and joy for baking throughout the guide.

Once you have the output, get more specific with this prompt: 'Can you rewrite this recipe for an absolute rookie in the kitchen who's discovering the pleasure and mindfulness of baking for the first time?'

Finally, make it suitable for Gen Z with this third prompt: ‘Thanks, can you now make it suitable for Gen Z and using emotions where needed?

Try it yourself and see what happens to the output. 


4. Say ‘hi,’ ‘please’, and ‘thank you’

This is one of the best tricks to get more out of ChatGPT. And it's not that AI gives a f*ck if you're polite or not; it's about you and your mind. Seeing AI as an equal partner in the conversation sparks your mind and creativity in prompt writing. 

You can see in my prompts that I ask ChatGPT to do something for me. Most of my prompts start with a ‘Can you…’

Read more on ‘Unlock the power of ChatGPT by saying ’hi' and ‘thank you


5. Leverage your knowledge and creative thinking in the age of AI

These are the two reasons why you’ll still have a job in a few years: your knowledge and creative thinking. You being authentic and showing your expertise.

You do you, with a little help from AI.

It’s good to realize that generative AI echoes what’s already there. There’s nothing new, no new strategies, no new insights, all unbiased and without a point of view.

With every prompt you write, you can dive deeper into the topic to reveal what matters. No matter if it’s an ‘easy-to-follow recipe for chocolate chip cookies’ or an extended breakdown of ‘why every company should have an agnostic silo-independent content strategy.’

And it’s also you who does the creative thinking — thinking differently, displaying a unique point of view, explaining the complicated in an easy way, and highlighting what matters most at that moment, for that topic in that context.

Anyone can type in a prompt; a few can create prompt chains and get the desired output that stands out and makes the complex understandable.


6. Use custom instructions in ChatGPT-4

Stepping up your game is getting a paid subscription and to get access to ChatGPT-4. Yes, there’s a big difference compared to the free version. More accurate, better details, real-time search in Bing via the app, and much more. Honestly, if you don’t master the art of writing better prompts first, save your bucks and efforts, and don’t go for ChatGPT-4 yet.


Use Custom Instructions 
The hidden and best feature of ChatGPT-4 is the ‘Custom Instructions’ to get personalized output. The only limit is your imagination and the 1.500 character count.

Here's what you need to do.

  1. Enter ‘What would you like ChatGPT to know about you to provide better responses?’
  2. Tell ‘‘How would you like ChatGPT to respond?’

Read more on Custom Instructions and the details on how to personalize it.


Be aware of what you share
Keep in mind that ChatGPT-4 saves your data, builds a profile, and probably is going to use that for (commercial) objectives. You voluntarily feed the AI with your most personal and private data.


7. Keep your prompting skills up to date

What works today can be totally different in two weeks. How you write a prompt, what you put in a prompt, or how you chain prompts evolves over time. As AI changes on an almost daily basis, so should your prompt engineering knowledge. 

It's up to you to stay on track, learn, and grow together with AI. 


Wrapping up, in summary

When you master prompts and prompt engineering, you'll experience the real added value of using AI and how it can help you and enrich your output by 10x. 

As said, garbage in is garbage out. It’s you, with help from AI, that creates the magic and the output. All you need to do is show your expertise, knowledge, and creativity when writing the prompt while chatting with ChatGPT.

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. What is a prompt, and what’s prompt engineering
  2. First tip: long, specific and detailed prompts
  3. Second tip: prompt on prompt chains
  4. Say ‘hi,’ ‘please’, and ‘thank you’
  5. Use your knowledge and creativity
  6. Use Custom Instructions
  7. Keep your prompting skills up to date

And remember, you can’t break AI. Have fun. Play and fool around, give it a try, and be surprised.

Always. Always do the last check yourself. Not only to make it your own, also to triple-check the validity and sanity.

Now it's up to you! Start, have fun, and discover your and AI's potential!



This page was originally published in November 2023 and updated in February 2024.  Exactly as mentioned in that last paragraph, prompt engineering changes by the week, so should your skills and my tips.