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Mnemonic Devices


Acronyms are used to remember lists of words by taking the first letter from each word and using them to form a single word. This technique can be used for random list or for lists that need to be remembered in a specific order. Often, all it takes is the first letter of a word to recall information which takes less energy than remembering an entire list. For example the word "scuba" is actually an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, but SCUBA is a lot easier to remember than the entire string of words that it stands for.

Acrostics (Sentences)

The use of acrostics is similar to acronyms in its methods, but rather than creating a word from the first letter of each item in a list, acrostics utilizes the first letters of each word to create an entire sentence. This technique is particularly useful when a list of words needs to be remembered in a specific order, but the order does not lend itself to the creation of a new word, as with acronyms. Of course, this technique can be used for unordered lists as well. For example, many of us remember using the acrostic "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" to remember the order of operations in mathematics (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction).


The use of rhymes relies on making information memorable by creating rhymes or songs that are simple, but rhythmic and catchy. The most common application of this technique is to put new words to a familiar song, like a nursery rhyme or Christmas song. Most songs use rhymes as part of the lyrics, but rhymes alone can also be effective, even without music, such as "'i' before 'e' except after 'c' and when the sound's 'a' as in neighbor and weigh" or "thirty days has September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one." Can you think of any others?

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