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The Alphabet System
The Alphabet system is a peg memory technique similar to, but more sophisticated than, the Number/Rhyme system. At its most basic level (i.e. without the use of mnemonic multipliers) it is a good method for remembering long lists of items in a specific order in such a way that missing items can be detected. It is slightly more difficult to learn than the Number based techniques.
Mind Tools Mnemonic Grades:
Ease of Use - moderate Effectiveness - quite good Power - moderate - codes 1- 26 items without use of enhancement Learning investment - moderate Who should use - brighter individuals
How to use the Alphabet Technique
This technique works by associating images representing and cued by letters of the alphabet with images representing the items to be remembered.
The selection of images representing letters is not based on the starting character of the letter name. Images are selected phonetically - i.e. so that the sound of the first syllablle of the image word is the name of the letter, eg. we would represent the letter 'k' with the word 'cake'.
Tony Buzan in his book 'Using Your Memory' suggests using a system of using the first pictorially vivid image suggested by taking the letter name root, and then coming up with words based by advancing the next consonant in alphabetic order (e.g. for the letter 'S' - root 'Es', we would first see if any strong images presented themselves when we tried to create a word starting with 'EsA', 'EsB', 'EsC', 'EsD', 'EsE', etc.) This has the advantage of producing a mnemonic image that can be reconstructed if forgotten, however you may judge that it is an unnecessary complication of a relatively simple system, and that it is best to select the strongest image that comes to mind and stick with it.
One image scheme is shown below:
A - Ace of spades B - Bee C - Sea D - Diesel engine E - Eagle F - Effluent G - Jeans H - H-Bomb I - Eye J - Jade K - Cake L - Elbow M - Empty N - Entrance O - Oboe P - Pea Q - Queue R - Ark S - Eskimo T - Tea pot U - Unicycle V - Vehicle W - WC X - XRay Y - Wire Z - Zulu
If you find that these images do not attract you or stick in your mind, then change them for something more meaningful to you.
Once firmly visualised and linked to their root letters, these images can then be linked to the things to be remembered. Continuing our mnemonic example of the names of philosophers, we will use the example of remembering a list of contemporary thinkers:
A - Ace - Freud - a crisp ACE being pulled out of a FRying pan (FRiED) B - Bee - Chomsky - a BEE stinging a CHiMp and flying off into the SKY C - Sea - Genette - a GENerator being lifted in a NET out of the SEA D - Diesel - Derrida - a DaRing RIDer surfing on top of a DIESEL train E - Eagle - Foucault - bruce lee fighting off an attacking EAGLE with kung FU F - Effluent- Joyce - environmentalists JOYfully finding a plant by an EFFLUENT pipe G - Jeans - Nietzche - a holey pair of JEANS with a kNEe showing through H - H-Bomb - Kafka - a grey civil service CAFe being blown up by an H- Bomb etc.
Try either visualising these images as suggested, or if you do not like them, come up with images of your own. Although the images are quite laboured, they are good enough to give the cues for the names being coded.
See the article on Using Mnemonics More Effectively to see how you can improve these pictures to help them stay clearly in your mind.
Once you have mastered this technique you can multiply the it using the images described in the article on Expanding Memory Systems.
The Alphabet System is the most complex and difficult of the peg systems, requires a longer preparation period and is more difficult to code than either the Number/Rhyme System or the Number/Shape system. It is, however, more powerful in that it allows you to code and remember a list of up to 26 items before you have to start using Mnemonic Multipliers. You may, however, judge that it is more effective to use a simpler peg system with multipliers than to use the Alphabet System without them: this is your choice.