Tips for making good mnemonics

Suppose you just don't like any of the supplied mnemonics/mental images for a given card, or you're finding that for whatever reason they are not sticking in your memory. Or you think they are weak, too crazy, or unsuitable in some other way. That's perfectly OK, everyone's got different taste and style.

The power of the system is that registered users can create and save their own mnemonics for a card if the presupplied ones aren't suitable. But what makes a good mnemonic in the first place?

Well, here are some brief guidelines:

  • Make it "dynamic" rather than merely "static". Things should move around and interact, the mental image should change and evolve. One good way to do this is to imagine a short story to imagine the consequences of your image. For example, the French for bread is "pain" (pronounced "pan") - if your image for this is to imagine a bread roll in pain because you're eating it, a consequence of this is that the other bread rolls in the basket jump out and run away. Notice that doing this little bit extra makes it into a dynamic short story, a lot more memorable than just thinking about a piece of bread being in pain.
  • Let's face it, there are certain types of mental imagery that are hard to forget, and just stick in your mind with little effort. Try to get your mnemonic to be one or more of the following: vivid, gory, grotesque, comic, repulsive, absurd or even sexual.
  • Make it personal to you. You know your own mind and what sticks in it for you. Perhaps set the image in a location that is familiar to you or involving people you know (as long as it's relevant).
  • You should also try to invoke not only "visual" imagery, but the other senses as well, where it is possible.

This final tip is not directly about coming up with a mental image yourself, but about harnessing the ingenuity of other users:

  • Other people may have already had ideas for mnemonics that you may not have thought about. Each card has a "Comments" section where users might have left their suggestions for what works for them. Check it out, you might be inspired. Or you can leave a request for suggestions.

Well, that concludes the list... happy imagining!


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