Using mnemonics is one of the best learning methods out there. If you know how to make mnemonics, you can go from repeatedly forgetting material to instantly remembering it and never encountering problems again.
The power of making mnemonics lies in converting dull, inert and uninspiring information into something vibrant and interesting that sticks out in your mind.
However, it’s often not very easy to actually make mnemonics. Here’s a handy list to give you some inspiration. Use them to remember anything – from hiragana to hanzi to names and places.
This is often the easiest way to create an effective mnemonic: what does it look like?
Use Google Images or something similar for inspiration. Also try doing web searches for “[what you want to remember]” + “looks like”.
Another quick route to memorable success. Find something relevant that rhymes with what you’re trying to remember. Even half-rhymes will often do.
3. Sounds like
If you like playing charades, this should be a good technique for you. Try saying what you’re trying to remember out loud or very quickly, and see if anything leaps out. If you know other languages, using similar-sounding words from those can be effective.
This tip goes hand in hand with #3. Are there any noises made by the thing you’re trying to memorise? Is it often associated with some other sound? Failing that, just make up a noise that seems to fit.
This huge list of onomatopoeia might help too.
If you’re trying to memorise something involving letters, this is often a good bet. A lot of famous mnemonics are acronyms, such as ROYGBIV. Often the acronym alone is good enough, but you can also form a sentence based on it. There a loads of acronym generators on the Web, e.g. all-acronyms.com.
Another wordplay technique. Try re-arranging letters or components and see if anything memorable emerges. You can easily find anagram generators online as well.
One particularly memorable form of anagram is the spoonerism, where you swap the initial syllables or letters of words to make new phrases. These are often hilarious and this makes them easy to remember.
7. Tunes and poems
If you’re feeling musical, this can work wonders. Tunes and poems are very easy to remember, as advertisers demonstrate to the great annoyance of most people. Turn it to your advantage to remember stuff more easily.
Make up quick stories or incidents involving the material you want to memorise. For larger chunks of information, the stories can get more elaborate.
Structured stories are particularly good for remembering lists or other sequenced information. Have a look at the method of loci for a more advanced memory sequencing technique.
Numbers contain a lot of structures that can be put to good use for memorisation. They contain a lot of well-known sequences and arrangements, such as multiplication tables, primes and odd / even numbers. Use these as memory pegs where possible.
10. Obscenity and shock
And finally, what might be the best mnemonic trick there is. Make your mnemonics as offensive, disgusting or shocking as possible and you’re guaranteed to remember them. There’s no need to tell anyone else what they are, so get creative and think up something weird.
Summary of ways to make mnemonics
Use this as a check-list when trying to make mnemonics:
- Sounds like
- Tunes and poems
- Obscenity and shock
- How to Develop a Brilliant Memory (Dominic O’Brien)
- Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It (Kenneth Higbee)