Example real world mnemonics

I wanted to share some real world examples of mnemonics with you, so that you can appreciate how useful and important they can be.

Acrostics are the most common form of mnemonic, largely because they require no prior knowledge of mnemonic systems and are simple to explain. As you will see, they are especially popular in the medical community where memorising lists of symptoms and procedures is a necessary requirement. Hopefully, looking at them will help you learn to spot opportunities for mnemonics in your own study material.

You should also notice that not all these mnemonics are particularly meaningful, but that having to learn a word like ‘Sohcahtoa’ is still easier than the alternative – it’s nice to realise that your own efforts don’t have to be perfect.

Although they are less common, I tend to prefer acrostics where each principle letter is the start of a word in a sentence rather than each letter of a single word for two reasons:

Firstly, you have to be lucky to find that rearranging the principle letters produces an actual word. It may be possible to substitute some of the words that you are trying to memorise for similar words that start with different letters, but this isn’t always the case.

Secondly, an acrostic word doesn’t automatically remind you what it is used for. You might know the medical mnemonic FAST HUG, but that doesn’t tell you what it relates to. With a sentence based acrostic, you have the opportunity to make that more obvious.

For example, the mnemonic SIGE CAPS is used to help remember the symptoms of depression, but you could use the same letters in a sentence such as:

I Can Spot Every Sad And Grumpy Patient

Not only is this more memorable (and took me only two minutes to devise), but it connects directly to the original list. If you can make these rhyme, they become even more memorable.