Learning the Alphabet List

Using the Alphabet List

It’s all very well using the Alphabet List to memorise lists of items, but it’s only really useful if you know it inside out. Obviously, you know the alphabet already – that’s at the heart of its usefulness. The fact that you know the sequence of the letters from childhood is the main reason for using the Alphabet List in the first place. But there’s more to it that that. And when you learn the rest, this becomes a really useful memory technique.

Go over the list repeatedly

You need to become really familiar with the words I’ve assigned to the letters (or, alternatively, the words you’ve come up with, if they suit you better). So do as you did when you were only five or six years old – go over the list repeatedly, till you know it without thinking.

Go over it time after time, and revisit it every day for a week, each time going over it just like you did when you were learning the alphabet at school, even making a sort of song of it, if that works for you. Do this for a while (as long as it takes) and the Alphabet List will be yours for ever!

Linking things to the Alphabet List

Each ‘tag’ or ‘hook’ is linked to a peg word AND a number, AND the item you need to remember!

Then we come to the numerical positions of the letters. If you can learn them as well, the Alphabet List becomes even more useful as a memory technique. Say someone reads out a list of twenty items, being able to link each one to the relevant letter of the alphabet gives you an easy and reliable method of memorising all the items on the list. You’ll be able to recite the entire list without any problem at all – and all you’ll need to do is recite the alphabet to yourself and reel off the items as you ‘see’ them revealing themselves attached to their particular memory ‘hooks’.

Impressive enough, don’t you think? But it gets better! Imagine being able to tell the person who read out the list what the tenth item was, or the sixteenth, or the nineteenth … or any item called out by its numerical position in the list. Now, that’s an impressive memory technique!

So here’s another table, this time with a reminder phrase linking each memory hook to its number in the alphabet. You need to give this list your attention as well. It really won’t help you much to read the list and appreciate that it’s actually quite useful. That’s not good enough. You have to spend a little time and actually put a bit of effort into this. Go over the Alphabet List a few times, and each time you come to a letter really imagine (i.e. bring to mind the image of) the thing that’s listed.

Memorise these reminders to really learn the Alphabet List

In other words, you reach the letter J, for example, and you read “Imagine a Jet plane with 10 engines, 5 each side!” … now, you should close your eyes, take a deep breath, get yourself very, very calm, and really see the image of that jet plane, and see all those five big engines hanging from each wing … more than any plane normally has … and imagine how much weight that adds to the plane … how much that weight is dragging the wings down … and how much thrust it gives the plane … and perhaps imagine what it looks like from inside the plane, looking through the window … imagine seeing all those engines lined up along the length of the wing.

These few moments that you take to really ‘explore’ the reminder (maybe ten seconds or so) will serve to really firmly implant the images into your mind. Instead of just reading the list and wondering later on why you only remember a few of the images, you’ll find that you remember virtually all of them, with virtually no effort at all.

As is the case with all memory work, a little bit of effort can reward you with huge increases in memory skills. And revisiting things from time to time, such as the Alphabet List, will reinforce them in your mind. Only then, when you take the time to really learn memory techniques, and to revise (or revisit) them occasionally, will you really see the benefits they can deliver.

1AImagine an APE winning a race - he came first, he's number 1!
2BImagine an alarm clock with 2 BELLs on the top.
3CImagine a strange-looking CAT with 3 tails!
4DImagine a DOG wearing 4 little shoes!
5EImagine 5 EGGs in a nest - they're covered in dark speckles.
6FImagine a FOX being chased by 6 baying hounds.
7GImagine holding a heavy GUN - it weighs 7 lbs.
8HImagine a new HAT labelled "Size: 8 inches".
9IImagine a cold drink in a tall glass - it's crammed with 9 ICE cubes!
10JImagine a JET plane with 10 engines, 5 each side!
11KImagine someone holding 2 KITEs - the strings look like a number 11.
12LImagine seeing a tasty yule LOG - must be December, the 12th month.
13MImagine finding out that the year consists of 13 lunar (MOON) months .
14NImagine a huge, rusty NAIL ... you measured it and it's 14 inches long!
15OImagine ordering 15 large cans of OIL.
16PImagine a freshly baked PIE, baked in a 16 inch dish.
17QImagine realising you're 17th in a QUEUE ... is it really worth waiting?
18RImagine a ROCK nearly as big as a house ... well, 18 feet high, anyway.
19SImagine a SAW labelled "19 teeth to the inch".
20TImagine a group of 20 TREEs, four rows of five.
21UImagine an URN that holds 21 cups of tea.
22VImagine a huge steel VICE labelled "Fully-open width: 22 inches".
23WImagine a tiny WITCH, only 23 inches tall!
24XImagine splitting a log into 24 sticks with an AXE.
25YImagine a luxury YACHT worth $25 million.
26ZImagine finding out that a small ZOO has only 26 animals!

So, if you were asked what was the eleventh item on the list, your thinking would be something like “Eleven … the strings on two kites … ah, kites, now I can see the item I’ve linked to ‘kite’ …”, and with this command of the letters and the memory words you’ve associated with them, you’ll be able to not only remember all the items on the list, and their numerical positions, you’ll probably be able to recite it backwards as well!


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