Ambiguity reduction

The information and exercises here draw on material developed for Module 2 of Arizona State University’s online undergraduate course on prompt engineering using ChatGPT.

Ambiguity in prompts can lead to unclear or vague responses from language models. By reducing ambiguity, you can guide the model towards generating more specific and relevant outputs. You will explore strategies for crafting clear and concise prompts, setting the right context, and specifying the desired response format to minimize ambiguity and improve the overall quality of generated text.

The exercises below are designed to help develop ambiguity reduction skills. They work best if using the paid ChatGPT Plus service from Open AI and GPT-4.


Ambiguity reduction, constraint-based prompting, and comparative prompt engineering, are all methods that can help improve the effectiveness of prompts, leading to more accurate, relevant, and useful responses from language models like ChatGPT.

By learning about ambiguity reduction, constraint-based prompting, and comparative prompt engineering, you will gain valuable insights into the art of prompt engineering. These techniques will empower you to create more effective prompts that elicit accurate, relevant, and useful responses from language models across various tasks and domains.

The exercises below specifically focus on ambiguity reduction. They start by exploring how to clarify a series of ambiguous prompts to increase the quality, specificity and usefulness of ChatGPT outputs. Following this you will spend some time working with ChatGPT to better-understand how to reduce ambiguity. The exercise finishes with a short ChatGPT-administered quiz.

Exercise: Basic Ambiguity Reduction

1. Open a session with ChatGPT in GPT-4 mode

2. Select one of the following prompts:

• Design a green solution

• Write a story about time

• Explain the importance of balance

• Discuss the impact of development

• Describe a breakthrough

3. Decide what specific outcome you would like to see from ChatGPT in relation to this prompt – do not tell ChatGPT! For instance, you may be interested in a sustainable solution to growing crops or cooling houses, or you may want to explore the importance of work-life balance – use your imagination here.

4. Submit the prompt you chose above as it’s written above to ChatGPT

5. Repeatedly refine the prompt in the same ChatGPT session until you get a response that aligns with the outcome you thought of above.

6. If ChatGPT aligns perfectly with you first time round, congratulations! However, please play this out as if it hadn’t by thinking of another outcome – the aim is to have a conversation with ChatGPT that leads to a refined prompt.

At the end of this exercise you should have a clearer sense of how to refine a basic promt to achieve a useful response by reducing ambiguity in the prompt.

Exercise: Advanced Ambiguity Reduction

1. Open a new session with ChatGPT using GPT-4

2. Explain to ChatGPT that you are in a course on prompt engineering and that you are studying ambiguity reduction. Have a conversation with ChatGPT about what ambiguity reduction is, examples of ambiguity reduction, what makes a prompt ambiguous, and how ambiguity can be reduced.

3. Use this session to learn as much as possible about ambiguity reduction. Remember, ChatGPT is not always reliable, so think about how you will evaluate the responses you get to ensure that they are reasonable.

At the end of this exercise you should have a clearer understanding of more sophisticated approaches to ambiguity reduction. You will be tested on your understanding of ambiguity reduction in the next exercise.

Exercise: Ambiguity Reduction Quiz

This exercise uses ChatGPT to administer and assess a short quiz on ambiguity reduction. It’s an example of using a prompt structure that enables ChatGPT to interact with the user as a personal tutor.

1. Open a new session with ChatGPT, ensuring you are in GPT-4 mode, and cut and paste the following prompt:

Hi ChatGPT. My name is [add your full name] and I am in a class where we are learning about ambiguity when crafting prompts. Please ask me five questions about ambiguity reduction. After each question, please wait for my answer before asking the next one. When you have all five of my answers, please provide an assessment of how good they are, and give me a grade from A to C.

2. You can repeat the quiz as many times as you like, and even ask ChatGPT to clarify points that you don’t understand.

3. When you have achieved an “A” in a clean session with ChatGPT, submit a link to the session below.

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