June 10


The Best Mnemonic Devices To Help Improve Memory

By Staff Writer

June 10, 2019

better recall, Improve Memory, memory improvement

Memory techniques exist that can help us remember the people we meet and important facts. Mnemonic "devices" make up one group of these techniques. The word "mnemonic" is derived from the Greek Goddess of memory (Mnemosyne) and Mnemonics can help us to quickly absorb a large amount of data without a lot of effort.

Mnemonic methods like rhymes, acronyms, and association can greatly increase our memory power. These techniques help to ENCODE memories in your brain, assisting recall of faces, names, figures, and events.

Why do Mnemonic Devices Help Us Create Memories?

We often try to remember data by repeating it over and over. Instead, mnemonics help to turn the chore of remembering into a fun game. These memory techniques help us by using our senses (sound, sight, touch, and smell) to create vivid memories that tap into the very ways that our brains use to store information. 

Here are three of the most common ways:

1. Visualization

Simply reading text does not create as much of a strong memory as visualized memories. Remember the old saying - a picture is worth a thousand words! Images are vibrant and far easier to remember than a string of words.

2. Observation

Think about how often you drive down a street as a passenger, looking out the window. You are "seeing" people and places as you drive by, but this doesn't tend to stick in our brains.

On the other hand, if you are stopped at a light and some activity catches your attention, you may OBSERVE their activity and remember it. Perhaps it is a group of children playing hopscotch or jumping rope, laughing and having a great time! Or it could be an entertainer such as a street-juggler going through a routine. When you observe rather than merely seeing, you tend to remember more.

3. Association

Association is something our brains do constantly without our awareness. Any time something new occurs, it is attached to something familiar. For example, if there is a particular song playing when you first meet your significant other, you tend to associate that song with that person. You may refer to it as "our song!"

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What Are the Different Types of Mnemonics?

While there are various types of mnemonics, you may not be as good at using one versus another. Try them all to find out what works best for you. Perhaps start out with the ones that appeal to you most and get familiar with using them. You may then want to move on to others.


This mnemonic device helps you to remember a large amount of information by creating a word using the the first letter of a string of words. There are several common ones that you may use everyday, such as:

LOL - Laugh Out Loud
BTW - By the Way
ASAP - As Soon As Possible]
POTUS - President of the United States

These types of acronym are used commonly, and understanding them helps a lot in our daily communication. You can make up your own Acronyms but some common ones for remembering are:

HOMES stands for the Great Lakes - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior

PEMDAS stands for the sequence of solving math equations - Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

SMART goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound

Association - the Odder the Better

To remember something by association, the more funny or unusual the trick you use is, the more likely you are to remember it. If you have a list of people that you just met that you are going to have to name back, maybe you have:

Allen, Fred, Hugh, Caleb, Jason, Bob, and Nancy

Allen (who says he likes to meditate) - Allen is almost always aligned
Fred (who seems very energetic) - Fred is frenetic and frenzied
Hugh (a very big man with lots of hair!) - Hugh is huge and hairy
Caleb (an artist) - Caleb is a careful craftsman
Jason (a lover of music) - Jason is a Jazz junkie
Bob (a large man with little hair) - Bob is big and bald
Nancy (an attractive woman at a table full of men) - Nancy is not neglected


Your brain loves the cadence in a rhyme, and sayings that you have had since childhood can help you recall information your whole life!

"Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue
in fourteen-hundred ninety-two"


"30 Days has September
April, June, and November
All the rest have 31
Except February alone
Which has but 28 days clear
And 29 in each leap year"


Chunking involves grouping things together to form something that is easy to remember. Chunking works because the items have a relationship or hierarchical importance, a similar function, or can be grouped in a manner that you tend to remember. For example, if you had to remember the number 5325478 you might remember it as 532-5478 like a phone number.

If you have a list you might be able to group them into categories rather than jumbled together.

For a grocery list you may have:

Unorganized List

Frozen Pizza
Chopped Spinach

Organize as a Chunked List

Fruits and Vegetables



Frozen Food
Chopped Spinach
Frozen Pizza



This is an excellent technique to recall long lists. It requires visualization of the items you need to remember in a tall, colorful, and stacked way.

Imagine you are going to the Pet Store to get dog treats, dog food, a new leash, shampoo, and a dog sweater. You could picture a stack of dog food (using the brand you want to buy for your dog), wrapped up in a sweater, with your dog sitting on top, fur bubbly with shampoo and his/her favorite treat hanging out of his/her mouth. A new dog leash attaches to the whole stack that you are pulling out to the car.


This mnemonic is a lot like acronyms. Instead of remembering a word made from the first letter of every word, use the first letter of the grouping of words you want to remember. Then make up a different sentence with words that start with those first letters.

To remember the order of the planets from the sun, try "My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas." This equates to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto! If you believe that Pluto is no longer a planet, use My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos.

These are just a few examples of mnemonic devices that you can use to help you remember. The more you use them, the more they will help so pick a mnemonic or two and play with them until they feel comfortable. You will find yourself remembering more details very quickly!


Learning to use mnemonic devices can help you recall facts quickly. Mnemonics work because:

- They are multi-sensory and...
- They use the same methods our brain uses to store information.

Here are some of the most-used and helpful Mnemonic Devices:

  • Association - associate facts with something funny or a vivid image
  • Rhymes - the rhythm within the rhyme helps our brains to remember
  • Chunking - grouping things together to break it into smaller, more meaningful pieces
  • Stacking - use your imagination to build a picture of a list you need to remember
  • Acronyms and Acrostics - use the first letter of a group of words to either make its own word (HOMES) or a new sentence (My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos).

BTW (that is an acronym!), If you are interested in giving your mnemonics an even bigger boost, we have several programs that were created with memory enhancement in mind.

About the author

Our staff writers come from various backgrounds in the neuroscience, personal development, brain science and psychology fields. Many started out as with us as contributors!

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