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Chapter Six. Writing Effective Prompts > Top Five Mistakes When Writing Prompts

Top Five Mistakes When Writing Prompts

  1. Getting caught up in the details of the wording of an application before fully understanding its structure. This mistake can lead to lengthy rewriting of prompts if there becomes a need to change the structure of the application.

  2. Writing overly verbose prompts.[2] People always consider the context when they evaluate a question. It is important to maintain a balance between clarity and brevity.

    [2] To learn more about this see Paul Grice, Studies in the Way of Words (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989) pp. 30–31.

  3. Repeating the initial prompt for the timeout and retry prompts. Timeout and retry prompts should provide additional information to clarify and guide the caller.

  4. Using language not commonly found in conversation. For example, “won't” is almost always preferable to “will not.”

  5. Equating stilted language with formal language. It is possible to be both formal and simple. Instead of saying “You are required to provide your date of birth before we can proceed,” you might choose to say, “We need to know your date of birth so that we can find your records.”

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