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Prompt Engineering Crash Course for Large Language Models

Prompt Engineering Crash Course for Large Language Models

Mar 5, 2024

Prompt Engineering Crash Course for Large Language Models

Prompt engineering is a critical skill for anyone looking to leverage large language models (LLMs) effectively. By understanding the basics of prompt engineering, users can optimize their interactions with these models to achieve better results. At the core of this lies the ability to construct prompts that guide the model to provide the desired output. This article, based on a video by AssemblyAI, will delve into the various components of a prompt, its use cases, and share techniques to enhance prompt efficacy.

Elements of a Prompt

A well-engineered prompt typically comprises several elements: input or context, instructions or questions, examples, and a desired output format. None of these elements are strictly mandatory, and at times a simple sentence might suffice to engage the model's autocompletion features. However, including at least one clear instruction or question can significantly improve the chances of obtaining a relevant response.

Instructions and Questions

Instructions should be direct and explicit, such as "Translate from English to German," followed by the sentence in question. On the other hand, questions can range from general inquiries to those that require additional context for the model to process.




Examples and Few-Shot Learning

Examples are a powerful tool in prompt engineering, embodying the concept of few-shot learning. By providing a model with one or more examples of the desired output format, users can steer the model towards producing similar results. Few-shot learning becomes one-shot or zero-shot learning as the number of examples decreases.

Desired Output Format

Specifying the output format can further refine the results. Users may request a simple "yes or no" answer or ask for a short reply followed by a reasoned explanation. This element ensures that the model's responses align closely with user expectations.

Use Cases for Prompts

Prompts can be employed for a wide range of tasks such as summarization, classification, translation, text generation, question answering, coaching, and even image generation in certain models. Each use case requires specific prompt constructions to guide the model towards the intended function.

  1. Summarization:
  1. Classification:
  1. Translation:
  1. Text Generation/Text Completion:
  1. Question Answering:
  1. Coaching:
  1. Image Generation:

General Tips for Effective Prompts

Creating effective prompts involves clarity, conciseness, and relevance. Users should aim to provide any additional context that might aid the model, include examples where beneficial, and define the desired output format. To avoid "hallucinations" or inaccurate fabrications by the model, prompts can be crafted to encourage factual responses, such as requesting the use of reliable sources.

Advanced Prompting Techniques

Several advanced techniques can refine the control over the output:

  1. Length Control: Specifying the desired output length.
  1. Tone Control: Asking for responses in a particular tone.
  1. Style Control: Defining the format, such as bullet points or a narrative.
  1. Audience Control: Tailoring the explanation to a specific audience, like a child.
  1. Context Control: Adjusting the amount of context provided.
  2. Scenario-Based Guiding: Setting a scene to dictate the model's role.
  1. Chain of Thought Prompting: Encouraging a step-by-step reasoning process to reach a conclusion.

Innovative Hacks to Improve Output

Hacks to refine output and mitigate hallucinations include:

  • Let the model say "I don't know" to prevent hallucinations
  • Give the model room to "think" before responding by asking it to record information before completing the intended task
  • Break complex tasks into subtasks
  • Check the model's comprehension by ending the prompt with "do you understand?"

Iterating for Optimal Prompts

Finding the best prompt may require iteration. Users should experiment with different prompts, combining few-shot learning with direct instructions, rephrasing prompts for conciseness, and testing various personas to influence the style of response. The number of examples provided can also be adjusted to see how it impacts the results.


Prompt engineering is both an art and a science, requiring a nuanced understanding of how LLMs interpret and generate responses. By keeping in mind the elements of a prompt, being aware of the various use cases, applying general tips for clarity and specificity, utilizing advanced techniques, and iterating on prompts, users can significantly improve their interactions with large language models. The resources compiled from AssemblyAI, including the lemur best practices guide, provide a solid foundation for mastering prompt engineering and unlocking the full potential of LLMs.


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