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Did You Use A Mnemonic Device Today?

No, a mnemonic device isn't the latest gadget, but a cool trick that helps you remember important information. If you have trouble remembering things, mnemonics can help!

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November…

If you’ve ever recited this childhood rhyme to remember which of our months have thirty days, you’ve used a mnemonic device.

What’s A Mnemonic Device?

No, it’s not the latest gadget, but a cool memory trick to help us remember facts—a large number of facts, lists, or some other type of bulk information. Basic mnemonic devices (or simply mnemonics) use words, sentences, or even images that our minds can associate with the information we’d like to remember. Most mnemonics are rhymes, acronyms, or catchy phrases that are easier to recall than the information they represent. The word is derived from the Ancient Greek word mnēmonikos, meaning “of memory,” or “relating to memory.”

How Do You Pronounce “Mnemonic”?

For a tool to make memory easier, the word itself is a tricky one! The first M is silent. “Mnemonic” is pronounced as three syllables, “ne-MON-ik.”

Why Do Mnemonics Work?

There is still a lot of research being done about why mnemonics work, but we do know a couple of things. First, they’re a way to encode information, and encoding makes it easier for our brains to recall information. This is particularly true with mnemonics that rhyme. When we hear and memorize a rhyme, that is a form of acoustic encoding that helps us commit the rhyme to memory through hearing. The brain is able to break the words of the rhyme down into phonemes (you may recognize the root word phone, which relates to phonics), which is how we decode spoken words in order to understand their meanings.

Columbus sailed the ocean blue
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two.

“Chunking” is another reason why mnemonics make it easier for us to recall information. Research shows that human short-term memory is limited to a small number of items at once. Mnemonic chunks make it easier to hold information in short-term memory. Phone numbers and social security numbers are an example of chunking—the digits are grouped into chunks that are easier to remember.

Popular Mnemonic Devices

Rhymes

To remember how to spell words like “receive,” try this famous mnemonic:

I before E, except after C
Or when sounding like A
In neighbor and weigh.

Acronyms

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Potatoes.
This mnemonic is designed to help you remember the planets in order from the Sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto (though astronomers are still arguing about Pluto’s planetary status). The new mnemonic for planets without Pluto is: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles.

Roy G. Biv
This acronym fashioned to look like a name helps us remember the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

FANBOYS
For grammar gurus, this is a must-use acronym that helps us remember all seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

There are lots of famous mnemonics out there to help us remember all kinds of things, but you can create your own mnemonics, too. Make up a simple rhyme or create your own acronym to make it easier to remember birthdays, tasks for work or school, grocery lists, and other bits of important information.

Do you use a mnemonic device to help you remember something? Share it with us in the comments below.

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Amber Kanuckel

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.

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Suzanne Jacobsen

I become E except after C or when sounding like A as in neighbor or weigh.
I realize I could tell real lies with my real eyes open.

ace johnson

TRIG FUNCTIONS: SIN, COS, TAN; SOH CAH TOA {SOME OLD HORSE CAUGHT ANOTHER HORSE TAKING OATS AWAY} SIN — OPPOSITE / HYPOTENUSE; COS — ADJACENT / HYPOTENUSE; TAN OPPOSITE / ADJACENT

Janine Mccurdy

How to remember small dressage ring markers….All King Edward’s Horses Can’t Make Big Fences

Bonnie Gentry

I use HOMES to remember the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. lol. Works for me!

Gary

When I was a kid a teacher said “I before E except after C”. What I heard was “I before E accept after C”. See how that can be confusing to a child? Why not something like “I before E but not after C”?

Tricia

Be My Little General Always. US Army ranks of general. (stars) Brigadier, Major, Lieutenant, General, General of the Armies

Mark L Barnett

This one is grade school old. A Rat In Tom’s House Might Eat Tom’s Ice Cream: Arithmetic. lol

john

I hated math, (and still do) so am glad I never had an Aunt Sally!

Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

Libby Massey

My uncle used this to teach me to spell. Mi crooked letter crooked I crooked letter crooked letter I, Mississippi.

Tina

You forgot the “hump-back” part! Lol

MI crooked letter crooked letter I crooked letter crooked letter I hump-back hump-back I =Mississippi

Sorry, I just HAD to say the whole thing! Lol Not Everyone around the world has heard that saying before.

Cheri

Kind Pa Can Open Front Garage S(I can’t remember this one) my 10th grade science teacher taught it to us to remember Kind, Phyllum, Class, Origin, Family, Genus, and Species

Susan Higgins

Cheri, excellent!

Molly Anderson

How about this one. I could never spell geography. So my dad taught me the following:
George Edwards Old Grandma Rode a Pony Home Yesterday. I am 81 and still remember. giggle giggle

Susan Higgins

Molly, that’s fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

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