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10 Clever Mnemonic Tools And Why They Work

Rules or mnemonics (or mnemonics) are phrases, rhymes, diagrams, or songs that are used as tools to facilitate memorization and learning. They are quite common among students of all ages and all study levels, since they make it easier to memorize and remember concepts, names, and other information.

What is mnemonics

The word mnemonics derives from the Greek and is formed by the word mném e which means “memory”; the word techne , which means “technical” or “art”; and the suffix –ia , which indicates “quality”. Therefore, mnemonics can be defined as a method or technique that is used to memorize something in the medium or long term.

Mnemonics is very useful in learning any discipline, especially to remember the new vocabulary of a language, technical names, parts of the body, the different classifications of living beings, etc. For this, there are mnemonic rules, which are practical ways to memorize content.

What are mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices, also called mnemonic rules, tools, or methods, are phrases, acronyms, or rhymes that help you remember different types of information.

Generally, the efficiency of mnemonics depends on each person. For example, some people have a better ability to remember sounds, while others remember images better. Therefore, it is necessary for the student to try different resources until they find the ones that are most effective.

How mnemonics work

Our mind stores and relates all the information we receive as a large database. Mnemonic rules basically work like a key that allows the brain to open the drawers of memory where the information we need to remember is located. They are trigger factors that help evoke memories.

In this way, mnemonic rules allow us to access a greater amount of information, simply by remembering few related data.

Curiously, in many cases the less sense the mnemonic phrases make, the easier it will be to remember them. Memorization is also reinforced by other stimuli, such as physical movement, sounds, images, and smells.

Types of mnemonics

Some of the more popular mnemonics are:

  • loci method
  • rhymes and phrases
  • The story method
  • The string method
  • acronyms
  • The associations
  • The organization
  • visual images
  • The songs
  • conversion of numbers

The loci method

The loci method , which is Latin for “places,” is a mnemonic technique created by the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos (556-468 BC) and later adopted by some of the greatest philosophers of Ancient Greece. In fact, it is one of the oldest mnemonics known.

The philosopher Cicero used this method to memorize his speeches. In the Middle Ages, the monks used it to memorize the Bible.

This technique is also known as “the palace of memories” and consists of imagining a familiar place that is familiar. It can be a house, a room or any other place.

To apply this technique it is necessary to imagine the place, and in it you must place, as objects, the information that you want to memorize. For example, if you are trying to remember a speech, you can imagine a theme or part of the speech in each room of the house. In this way, the introduction will be at the door of the house and the final conclusion, for example, in the garden.

The loci method is ideal for memorizing processes, instructions, and topics that require memorization in order. Currently, it is one of the most popular memorization techniques and is used in different fields.

rhymes and phrases

Rhymes are phrases whose words are arranged so that syllables with similar sounds at the end match. They are very common in poetry. Rhymes are easy to remember because they stimulate auditory memory.

A common example of rhyming phrases used to memorize the length of the months is: “November has thirty days, with April, June and September; only one twenty-eight; and the rest, thirty-one.”

In addition to rhyming, they often come up with creative phrases or puns that include the terms or concepts they want to memorize. For example, this method can be applied to remember the spelling of a verb: “The verb throw out the window”.

The story method

This technique consists of creating a short story where all the words we want to remember are included. It is important is that the story is as nice and logical as possible.

For example, to remember the words Himalayas – Everest – China – Nepal – 8,849m., the story could be: “Lucía had heard about the Himalayas but had never traveled there. In fact, she didn’t even know that she was on the China-Nepal border. When she searched for more information about this place, she discovered Everest, the highest mountain in the world. And she was even more surprised when she read that it is 8,849m high”.

The string method

The chain method consists of identifying the most important words of the topic or text that you want to memorize. That is, select the keywords to later be able to relate them in a logical way. For example, if you need to remember the content of an essay on the importance of afforestation and the consequences of the indiscriminate felling of trees in the Amazon, it will suffice to memorize the key words in the order in which they appear in the text: felling – deforestation – Amazon – forestation – future.

In this way, a “chain” of words is created that will serve as triggers to remember the rest of the text. This method can also be complemented with other techniques, such as associations or mental images.

mental images

Mental images are another effective way to memorize words, especially for those people who have a greater graphic memory.

This method is based on imagination. To do this, they must imagine or mentally visualize the concepts that need to be memorized, in the form of images. For example, if you want to memorize a shopping list, you can create a visual version of each item in your mind, like a movie or a photo album.

The songs

Music and sounds, in particular, are great allies when it comes to memorizing words. For this reason, it is common to find children’s songs that teach children to memorize numbers, letters, colors, shapes, animals and much more.

The songs also help to expand vocabulary and remember the pronunciation of words. They are also used to reinforce the learning of behavioral rules, descriptions of objects and places.

The most common example is the alphabet song, which appears in countless versions and languages. Some of them include only the letters, but others also associate colors and words with each of them.


Another very popular mnemonic rule is the use of acronyms. An acronym is a word made up of the first letters or groups of letters of a name or phrase. Some famous acronyms are Mapfre (Mutual Society of the Association of Owners of Rural Estates of Spain) and MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South).

Another widely used acronym is SMART objectives , which refers to the characteristics that a goal must have in order to achieve it quickly and effectively. This acronym is formed by the English words specific / “specific”; measurable / “measurable”; achievable / “attainable”; relevant / “relevant”; and timely / “opportune”.

There are several ways to form acronyms. The initial letters of words or syllables can be taken. For example, if you need to remember the provinces that make up the Community of Andalusia (Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville), you can create an acronym with the first syllable of each word: Alcacor-grahuel- never

Another example of acronyms to remember the names of the countries that formed the Axis during World War II: RoBerTo (Rome, Berlin and Tokyo, which are the capitals of Italy, Germany and Japan, respectively).

To memorize the chemical elements of the periodic table, the following phrase made up of acronyms can be used: “Today BENITO got the TITLE of Chromatic Bum while Felipe ate Medlars Covered with Carrots. Barcelona With Navarra Offers ICE-Free Strawberries” (Refers to the elements: hydrogen, beryllium, scandium, titanium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine and helium) .

The associations

Associations are a fun and effective way to memorize words. It consists of relating the word that you want to remember with something familiar, which can be an object, a lived experience, a typical product, etc. For example, to remember the Spanish provinces, each of them can be associated with something that represents or characterizes them: Valencia with a paella; Burgos with a black pudding; Segovia with an aqueduct. This technique can be reinforced by drawing each of these objects on a map.

Spanish author Ramón Campayo Martínez, who is a 10-time world memorization champion, has developed several mnemonic techniques to improve language learning and improve. In his book From him Learn a language in 7 days (2011), he mentions unlikely associations as a quick method to memorize a large amount of vocabulary in any language. This technique consists of making an imaginary association of the new term with something absurd and implausible.

The organization

Organizing information is another very useful mnemonic method. It consists of organizing the data to be memorized into different categories. These categories can be objective and logical; they can also be subjective, that is, selected arbitrarily or personally, either because the elements are not related to each other or because the person finds a relationship that makes sense to them even if it is not logical.

To apply this technique, you can make a list of the elements and divide them into categories and subcategories. In this way, the number of items to remember is reduced, because the categories will be fewer and will become memory triggers. This will allow you to remember all the other components of each category.

Another form of organization that favors memorization is fragmentation. It is about dividing a large data into smaller portions. An example of this is telephone numbers and other multi-digit numbers. It is easier to remember the number if it is divided into three parts: 999-341-027, than to memorize all its digits together: 999341027.

conversion of numbers

A different and very simple method to memorize numbers is conversion. To do this, each number is “converted” into a letter arbitrarily or by forming a word that makes sense. For example, if you want to remember the year the Museo Nacional del Prado was founded (1819), you can perform the following conversion: 1-A; 8-M; 9-L = AMAL = 1819.

Another way is to assign a letter to each number, following their order:

one A 2 B. 3 C. 4 D. 5 AND 6 F 7 G. 8 h 9 Yo 0 J

So, the conversion will result in the word: AHAI. This mnemonic is ideal for people who retain information better with letters than with numbers.

Another way to remember numbers is to make up a phrase that contains them, especially if it’s a multi-digit number, like the number Pi: ​​3.141592653589793238. For example: “3 brothers crossed 14th Street at 3:00 p.m. After walking 9 minutes and 26 seconds, they reached building 5. They went up to floor 3 and entered apartment 5. There they picked up their 8 children. At 9 pm, a neighbor from apartment 7 told them that they should visit the neighbor from building 93. When they went up to floor 2, they found 38 euros on the floor.

Other Examples of Mnemonics

Other examples of mnemonics are:

  • The use of body parts, such as the knuckles, to remember the days of the months of the year. This method consists of naming each knuckle and the spaces between them with a name of the month. It begins with the month of January at the knuckle of the little finger of the left hand. Thus, the months that have 31 days will remain on each of the knuckles and the months of 30 days and February will be in their spaces.
  • The acrostics are a poetic composition where the word to be memorized is placed vertically and a sentence is written from each initial.


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