How Your First Prompt Linguist May be Your Most Important Hire This Decade

“Prompt Linguist” may be a new term to many, but much like web designers in the 90’s, SEO managers in the 00’s, and social media managers in the 10’s, prompt linguists will be a role every business will need either in-house or freelance. Here’s what they are, how they will change the shape of your organization, and why this hire will propel (or sink) your business.

A long time ago, at the dawn of the web, simple HTML coding was a hot commodity. In that nascent era of the 90’s internet, a web developer with the ability to code gave you the essential skills to stake a claim in the online marketplace. As the internet developed further into the early 00’s, it became absolutely necessary to tether your website to popular search keywords on Google, and thus the role of the SEO marketer was born. In the 2010’s, it was the social media manager sprucing up your feeds and pioneering the tone and aesthetic of your company’s two way messaging shaping the way we did business. These new fields were strange new worlds for most businesses, but without making these critical (and pricey) hires, many businesses found themselves dead in the water.

Each of these decades saw a paradigm shift in technology that created another team member whose role would shape the forecast of the next 20 years of their business. 

In the 2020’s – that job is the prompt linguist. Here’s what you need to know about the most important new hire you make this decade:

What is a prompt linguist? 

A prompt linguist is someone who can can accurately and quickly create prompts that can elicit the exact response they are looking to get from an AI model (for more information on how AI models like chatbots work – and don’t work, check out our article How Chatbots Like Google Bard and ChatGPT can lead you astray). While attuned to understand nuance and tone, the vastness of what an AI model can do at a higher level requires a deeper understanding of not only linguistic nuance but also the specific functionality and structure of the AI model with which they are working.

What does a prompt linguist do all day?

A prompt linguist’s primary task is to understand and synthesize the needs of their company and formulate the prompts one would input into the AI model. A prompt linguist would be trusted with providing prompts that are clear, concise, and unambiguous. Prompt linguists may also have the technical background to adjust and help contextualize the way an AI model processes and thinks. An easy metaphor to help you understand the role of a prompt linguist is to think of an AI model like a magic genie that has the ability to grant any wish you ask, but asking the wrong question can fulfill wishes that you didn’t want answered. 

As you start to understand more about what AI models can do for your company, you will see its ability to create tools, functions, and mimic the output of entire departments that a business may have once considered “too expensive” to staff. With a good prompt linguist, roles like

data analysts and additional customer service associates can be added or even multiplied to scale at minimal cost. 

Understanding the way that AI language models contextualize what is asked will give businesses a single hire that can output the work of multiple other specialized team members, and  save countless work hours of other team members by simplifying their jobs.

What kind of skills should you look for when hiring a prompt linguist? 

While the whole point of AI models like chatbots is to be easy-to-use for anyone, there are areas of focus that one could pull from to enhance their ability to use AI models. Those with fundamental understanding of the basic building blocks of human communication like linguistics, pragmatics and context will find ease in understanding how to send a succinct message that optimizes the output of an AI model. Understanding technical aspects of how AI models and chatbots contextualize information like natural language processing (NLP) and language generation are new fields of learning that are also essential to becoming a great prompt linguist.

What certificates, training, or degrees could identify a great candidate for your first prompt linguist? 

As it goes for college degrees, those with degrees in fields like Computer Science, Rhetoric, English, Communications, Cognitive Science, Technical Writing, and even Philosophy (you heard me right, philosophy majors) will find a natural footing and strong foundation toward being a natural hire as a prompt linguist.

There are also affordable courses and bootcamps being offered online that can assist in providing more in-depth training for the role of your first prompt linguist.

Hiring from within? What members of your team are good candidates to become prompt linguists?

As the field develops, colleges will offer more focused courses on this role but if you are looking to source your prompt linguist from within your organization, it would be wise to look within your IT and Marketing departments. Your Content Strategist and UX designer both have skill sets in understanding how to form succinct language and syntax that will be of critical use to properly leverage  a chatbot to properly do the roles within multiple specialized fields. 

This emerging new role is set to revolutionize how businesses can become even more flexible and robust on smaller budgets and with smaller teams. Finding your first prompt linguist should be one of the most important things on your to-do list this year – the future of your business may depend upon it.

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