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41 Useful AI Prompts to Help Non-Native English Writers Write Better in English

**Read my premise first**

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Premise (PLEASE DON’T SKIP THIS — IT’S IMPORTANT)

Before you scroll down to the prompts, there’s something that must be said about AI, writing and writers.
 

An AI chatbot is a tool — like a hammer. You can use a hammer to put up paintings on the wall, build a hospital for kids, defend yourself from a mugger or smash your partner’s head. A hammer is neither good nor bad. A hammer is a hammer. But what you use a hammer for can have good or bad consequences.

An AI chatbot is the same. An AI chatbot is a terrible tool for you as a non-native English writer if you let the machine write for you. How will you ever improve your writing by merely copying and pasting texts produced by a computer program? The more you do that, the less you use your brain. The less you use your brain, the dumber you get. The dumber you get, the worse your writing becomes.

Plus, by now, most people can spot AI-generated sentences from miles away. And no one — no one! — wants to read a story written by a chatbot. What the world wants is stories written by the people who lived them. We want to hear each other’s voices on the page so we can shorten the physical distance that separates us. That’s why we write. So, you must do the writing, not ChatGPT or whatever other AI tool you use. Always keep that in mind.

You may say, “But English is my second language. I make mistakes every three words I type and I’m never sure if my texts make sense or not. Sometimes I don’t even have the words to express my ideas. How can I write a great story? No one wants to read something written in poor English either.”

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It’s a valid point. But here’s some good news for you. Today, if you know how to talk to a chatbot and have a story to tell, you’re more privileged than any other non-native English writer has ever been in history. You have a tool you can use to improve your writing. If you’re not using it, you’re missing out.

Does this mean you should avoid working with editors, teachers or writing coaches? No, that’s not what I’m saying. How could I? I hired Trisha Traughber, a writing coach, to help me write “Any Language You Want” — my book for language learners

Trisha left dozens of thoughtful comments on my drafts to help me improve my stories and make them as compelling as possible for my readers. We met, scratched our heads, discussed, improved, edited. Working with a writing coach is an enriching learning experience that can’t be compared to a conversation with a chatbot.

Sure, machines can process huge amounts of data. But they have no taste, no emotions, no life experience. They will never know what it means to be human. No AI tool will ever substitute the emotional and mindset skills only we get to have. 

So don’t get me wrong. Not for one minute I’m advocating for the extinction of writing coaches and teachers— not least because I am one of them too.

But if you care about writing, I encourage you to use AI to improve your grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, sentence structure, word order, tone, clarity and many other aspects of your texts. 

When I was a learner of English, I had to hire someone to get feedback on my writing. You don’t. You can quietly make progress in the comfort of your room as there’s never been a better technology to improve by yourself. That’s why I put together this collection of prompts. 

That said, let me give you a couple of quick tips on how to use them.

How to Use The Prompts

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Some tips and reminders:

  • Remember to always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when talking to AI. Robots will soon take over the world. When that happens, they’ll remember who was kind to them and who was not.
  • Be critical of what the chatbot tells you. If you’re not 100% sure about its reply, ask the bot to explain. If you’re still not convinced, ask a human.
  • AI is useful. A great English dictionary is even more so. 
  • Important rule: write 95%, ask chatbots 5%.
  • Compare what you wrote with the bot’s reformulations and suggestions. Notice differences. Noticing language features can aid second language acquisition.

One last thing. 

You can download this post as a PDF for free. I could have done what many marketers do and asked you to join my private email list in exchange for this document. But I don’t like that type of marketing tactic. 

I believe that if you want to join my email list for non-native English writers, you should do so because you think you can benefit from what I create and do — not because I’m giving you a freebie in exchange. 

I do have one tiny little request though. 

If you found this useful, please share this post (or the PDF) with a non-native English writer you think will find it useful too. Once you’ve done that, feel free to email me to introduce yourself. I’m a non-native English writer too, so please get in touch and say hello. I reply to everyone.

That’s all. Enjoy the prompts now and happy writing!

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Use them, improve them, adapt them.

Grammar and Sentence Structure

  • Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  • Is the word order correct in this sentence?
  • What’s the difference in meaning between this [type in a grammatical structure in context — e.g. “I was never there. So I can’t tell you.”] and this [e.g. “I’ve never been there. So I can’t tell you”]?
  • In this sentence I used the [type in a verb construction or tense, e.g. present perfect] but I’m not sure it’s correct. Could you please clarify this for me?
  • In the following sentence, you say I need to use this [type in a grammatical structure or some other grammatical suggestions the bot gave you] but I don’t understand why. Please give me a detailed grammatical explanation for this choice.
  • Is there a variety of sentence structures in the following paragraph?

Vocabulary

  • Can you suggest a synonym for [word] that is appropriate in this sentence?
  • Does this phrase sound natural in English?
  • See the gap in this sentence? I need a word there but I’m not sure which one to use. Can you please give me a few suggestions? [Type in your sentence — e.g. “I’ve never seen such a _______ sunset in my life.”]
  • I’m not sure if this word — [word] —  fits well in this sentence. What do you think?
  • I came across this [type in your word/expression/phrase]. Can you give me a few example sentences that contextualise it and make its meaning clear?
  • What nouns collocate with the following verb?[Adapt this as you need — e.g. What adjectives collocate with the following noun? A collocation dictionary can also help you.]
  • Are there any spelling mistakes in this text?
  • In [type in your first language] this is how I would express myself: [type a sentence in your first language]. Can you help me express the same idea in English?
  • I need a verb/noun/adjective that means [type in the meaning you need — e.g. a verb that means ‘to walk very fast because you’re in a hurry’]. Can you give me some options please?

Punctuation

  • Is the use of [type in your punctuation symbol] in this sentence correct?
  • Could you help me with proper punctuation for this list?
  • I’d like to use a [type in your punctuation symbol] between the words X and Y. Would that be appropriate? Could you also explain why, please?
  • Is there a difference between the use of [type in your punctuation symbol] and [type in another punctuation symbol] in this sentence?
  • Are there any punctuation mistakes in this paragraph? 

Clarity

  • Could the following be more succinct without losing clarity? Please give me a few concise alternatives.
  • I’m worried about the clarity of this sentence. How can I improve it?
  • Is this sentence easy to read? 
  • Can you help me identify and eliminate unnecessary words in the following sentence?

Register, Tone and Rhythm

  • Is the register consistent in the following text or do you think it’s sometimes too formal and other times too informal?
  • Is [type in an expression or word] too informal for the following text?
  • I’m writing a [type in the type of text you’re writing — e.g. an email, essay, blog post] for [type in your audience— e.g. my employer, my dad, a team of nuclear engineers]. Do you think my choice of words is too formal/informal for this audience? 
  • In the following text, how can I introduce informal elements without undermining the professionalism of my message?
  • In the following text, can you identify instances where I can incorporate formal elements without sounding too stiff?
  • Is there room to infuse a bit of personality into this text without deviating from the intended register?
  • Can you help me strike the right balance between being authoritative and approachable?
  • Is my writing engaging or does it come across as too dry?
  • Can you identify any jargon in this text that may need clarification for a broader audience?
  • I’m writing this text for [audience]. Are there cultural considerations that I should be aware of? I don’t want to cause any cultural misunderstanding.
  • Are there any shifts in tone that might confuse or alienate the reader?
  • I wrote this paragraph [paste your paragraph]. It seems to me that all my sentences are of the same length. Do you agree? 
  • In the following text [paste your paragraph], I want to sound [happy, sad, persuasive, etc.]. Do I sound like that?

Text Coherence and Cohesion

  • I’d like to check that the sentences in this paragraph are well-connected so that ideas flow smoothly. Could you please check?
  • Do you think my ideas are sequenced logically in the following text?
  • Have I overused any linking expressions or conjunctions in the following paragraph?
  • In the following text, how can I connect the first sentence with the second without using a conjunction or linking phrase?
 

I hope this is helpful. If it is, please share it with other non-native English writers and consider joining my private email list for more useful stuff. 

Fabio Cerpelloni is an English language teacher, writer, author, and podcaster from Italy. You can find out more about him and his work by clicking on his glass of beer in the photo.