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Part: II The Process of Designing Speech... > Writing Effective Prompts

Chapter Six. Writing Effective Prompts

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

THOMAS MANN

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

GENE FOWLER

The difference between an adequate speech-recognition system and a great speech-recognition system lies in how the system asks questions and conveys complex information. Great systems do it with an elegance worthy of a haiku; their meaning and impact are clear and immediate, and not a single word is wasted. The more elegant a system is, the more intuitively—and quickly—a caller can use it, and the greater value it offers to both clients and callers.

This chapter does not discuss topics such as “the best way to ask a 'yes/no' question.” Why not? Because, for one thing, there is no single “best way.” Rather, there are many different ways to properly ask a “yes/no” question, depending on the situation. I've avoided absolute rules—and words like “always,” “never,” “best,” and “worst”—because the state of the art of design is constantly changing. Any absolute rules I could offer would soon be outdated. In fact, I prefer that people understand and extract the underlying ideas about the design of successful speech systems rather than blindly follow a set of rules.

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