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Jul 9, 2024
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Prompt Engineering 101: How to Construct the Perfect Copilot Prompt

Prompt Engineering 101: How to Construct the Perfect Copilot Prompt

Artificial intelligence is vital to the modern business world. After all, the companies pulling ahead are the ones that are using it to its fullest potential. One of the best new tools that companies are beginning to implement is Microsoft Copilot — your new AI-powered assistant that can help streamline your day and boost productivity.

But, using Copilot is not as simple as just entering a prompt and solving all of your issues. Prompt engineering takes more forethought, to get specific outputs that match your own needs and requests. Learning how to do this is a process, and will help you take your Copilot utilisation to the next level.

In this article, we’re going to go over the ins and outs of Copilot prompt engineering, including how you can make your own rich prompts to get great outputs from Copilot. We’ll also talk about what you should avoid when prompt engineering.

Understanding Copilot’s Capabilities

Microsoft Copilot is an AI assistant, that you can give prompts. In exchange for those prompts, Copilot will respond with useful and relevant generated information.

This is known as ‘generative AI’, as it generates strings of texts through AI Capabilities. Copilot is powered by the same technology that powers ChatGPT — the founder of ChatGPT, OpenAI, is now under the Microsoft umbrella.

Copilot is capable of lots of different everyday tasks, and so much more —

• Word: Copilot in Microsoft Word helps you improve and enhance your writing, to ensure it’s of the highest quality and to help you make smarter decisions about word choices, flow, sentence structure, and more. On top of this, you can use Copilot to summarise documents, or even draft full documents from scratch if you need it to.

• Outlook: In Microsoft Outlook, Copilot lets you organise and manage your emails far more easily. You can use Copilot to find specific emails or summarise email threads, and to tag emails to organise them as well. You can also simply just use Copilot to help you write great emails.

• Excel: Copilot is phenomenal for data visualisation and analysis in Excel, and can find trends within your data that the human eye may not see. You can even use Copilot to streamline your workflow and complete lengthy tasks in one go.

Components of an Effective Prompt

Prompts are very important. After all, your AI generation starts with a prompt. But, an effective prompt will stand above a bad prompt.

There are three key components to an effective prompt —

• Clarity: Your prompt should be clear. After all, the AI won’t be able to tell what it needs to find if your prompt is all jumbled and confused. Clear, natural communication is best here and will go a long way.

• Specificity: You need to be specific about what you want. This means giving all information, such as aims, goals, and other important information that will help give you the specific outcome rather than a tangentially related one.

• Relevance: Relevance will help ensure that Copilot achieves your desired outcome. This means giving it relevant details to stay focused and leaving no room for ambiguity. It leaves less room for irrelevant information to make its way in, or for the prompt to miss altogether.

Common Pitfalls in Prompt Construction and How to Avoid Them

Artificial intelligence is a new concept for a lot of people, and it can be tough to know how to use generative AI optimally. After all, we’re only a year on from the onset of GPT, and people are still getting to grips with it in everyday life. But, knowing how to avoid common mistakes is the first step to refining your prompt engineering.

Here are some common pitfalls that prompt engineers make, and how you can avoid them —

• Lack of Clarity and Specifity: As aforementioned, clarity and specificity are vital to ensuring that your AI prompts are correct. The solution is to ensure that you’re specific at all times and that your prompts are clear, sophisticated, and focused.

• Misalignment with Capabilities: Let’s say that you ask Copilot to pick the winning lottery tickets next week. Copilot simply cannot do that, as the lottery is a random outcome. You have to be realistic about its capabilities and work within them.

• Unrealistic Expectations: AI isn’t going to give the perfect output the first time, nor will it be flawless. You have to check your outputs to see if you need to iterate and to ensure that the prompt is what you wanted — even in its intricacies, mistakes and errors can hide.

Tips for Iterative Prompt Refinement

Prompt refinement is the process of working a prompt over and over until you achieve the desired result, changing your prompt and refining it more and more until you do so. This process is the best way to make sure your output is exactly how you want it, but the refinement process isn’t as easy as just making a few changes.

Here are some tips on how to refine your prompts iteratively —

• Feedback Loops: Seeing your prompt as a feedback loop, and using the output to help inform the next iteration of your prompt, will allow you to create better, more refined prompts.

• Analyse Responses: By looking at your responses and seeing what worked, you can create changes and ultimately improve your prompts in a linear, progressive way. Otherwise, you might end up making the same errors over and over.

• Experiment: By experimenting with wording, phrasing, and approaches, you can find lots of different responses and see what works best for you.

How We Can Help

Copilot is Microsoft’s headline AI companion that can help empower your workplace and boost productivity like nothing else. However, one of the most important aspects of using Copilot is prompt engineering. These tips will help you ensure your prompts are not only decent but also will help you improve them as time goes on.

If you’re looking to get started with Microsoft Copilot but need help, reach out to us now and see how we can support you. Don’t forget to also read our article on how to create custom AI Copilots with Microsoft Copilot Studio.