The Alphabet List

Your Alphabet List

NOTE: See also the Animals Alphabet List

There will be times when you need to remember a list of things, and it would be very handy to have a ready-made list of peg words that you could use for the job. Obviously, it would be even better to use the Major System (or perhaps the 100 List), but maybe you haven’t got round to learning either of them yet. Or maybe you tried but you haven’t really mastered them yet.

If that’s the case, you could probably do with a shorter (and maybe simpler) list. The alphabet list fits the bill exactly! It’s quite basic, and it’s easy to learn. And when you’ve got it under your belt, you’ve got a list of 26 brand new peg words just waiting to be used for just about anything that comes along!

Making your alphabet list

You want to make the list easy to remember, first and foremost. You want to make it so you can learn it in minutes and have it up and running almost immediately. And you want to use short, mostly single-syllable words. And you want those words to represent things that are visual. They should be actual things that are easy to visualise and incorporate into mental images. Oh, and of course they should start with the same letter that they are linked to, at least generally (X being the exception in my list).

You can use any words you like. I’ve put together an alphabet list to illustrate what I mean about keeping the words short and easy to remember, but you can use them or use other words entirely, it’s up to you.


Using the alphabet list

Once you’ve made the alphabet list, and learned it, you’re ready to go. Now, when you’re faced with a list of things you need to memorise, all you have to do is link each one to the next available letter. And because they are all alphabetical, you’ll know instantly where it is in the list (and what comes before it, and after it). As long as you can recite the alphabet, you’re practically there!

An ape from the alphabet list in a tree with a copier. Typically weird image using the alphabet list.

Make your memory images as weird as you like. In fact, the weirder the better! Weird is good!

Say someone is reading out a list of items (maybe a study partner), and you have to commit them to memory. Okay, you hear the first item – let’s say it’s a photo-copier … you imagine an ape struggling to operate a photo-copier on the branch of a tree, but the copier keeps slipping and the ape has to keep grabbing it to keep it steady. As the ape hits the controls, the light is repeatedly flashing across the machine and sheets of paper are spewing out of it.

Cat, building inspector! Use the alphabet list for shorter lists.

The hard-hat cat is a tough boss to work for!

The next item is a brand new shirt, still in its packaging … imagine someone selling you the shirt and when the sale is rung up, a big bell on the cash register rings (remember to make the bell BIG, much bigger than a bell on a cash register has any right to be, and really hear it ringing … but also remember to focus on the shirt … very important to remember to focus on the item itself, not just the memory peg you’re associating with it).

The next item is a delivery of paving slabs … imagine a cat, wearing a yellow hard hat and holding a clip-board, and he’s taking delivery of the slabs and keeping a sharp eye on the delivery men … he’s a suspicious cat, look at the way he’s watching them … he won’t let them get away with making a short delivery, that’s for sure. You get the idea?

Be creative! Play with it! It only takes seconds.

Really use your imagination!

It’s all about using your imagination. Don’t just think “Er … ‘A’ … that’s ‘ape’ … and there’s, er, a photo-copier … okay, next …”. If that’s all you’re going to do, good luck with using this method, because you’re going to need it. What you want to do is firmly associate the peg word with the item, but do it vividly, and do it using every trick in the book. Make the association funny, if you can. Or make it frustrating (like the ape with the photocopier … you should almost be able to feel the ape’s frustration). And make it animated. There should, ideally, be movement, action, things getting shoved around, things getting broken, things making noise, exploding, etc, etc. In other words, you should try to make the scene come alive!

When you come to recite the list of items, all you have to do is go through the alphabet and you will see the items you’ve placed along the way. In effect, they have been hung on memory ‘hooks’. The more effectively you created the images, the more readily they’ll come to mind. And once you’ve done this a few times and got used to it, you’ll be able to come up with these images almost instantly. You’ll not only be able to create almost instant action scenes, you’ll be able to see them vividly and in great detail.

Incidentally, if you take the time to memorise the numerical position of the letters of the alphabet, you’ll also know what was the fourteenth item, or the twelfth, or whatever. In case you want to refer to a numerical listing of the letters, I’ve incorporated it into the table above. And if you do want to completely memorise the numerical positions of the letters, see Learning the Alphabet List.

The alphabet list, and backwards

There are a few different methods of learning the alphabet backwards, but one very simple way is to make up a crazy little story of some sort, starting at Z and working towards A, and linking all the memory peg words as you go. You could start with the Zoo, and see a large, luxurious Yacht being driven out through the main gate of the zoo on a huge trailer … someone has been waiting, someone who wants revenge on the owner, so she starts wielding an Axe and smashing it into the yacht’s hull, and then you see her anger is turning her into a Witch … she needs to sharpen the axe so she clamps it in a Vice … now she’s so exhausted from all the action and all that anger that she needs a cup of tea, so she pours one from an Urn … and sits under a Tree to calm down and have her drink … and so on, just making things up as you go along.

Plastic letters - If you can learn the alphabet, you practically know the alphabet list

You can learn the alphabet backwards, and it’s easy as ABC!

It might take a few minutes to come up with something that makes some kind of sense (although, of course, we don’t want anything too logical, right?), but once you’ve done that, and been through it a few times, you’ll be able to ‘see’ the action from beginning to end (or should that be from the end to the beginning?) and almost in a flash. As you’re going through the story, you’ll be reciting the alphabet backwards, and quite quickly. If it’s something you want to master, just do it several times, and spaced out over several days, and it’ll soon be ingrained. You’ll be reciting the alphabet backwards in almost no time, and with hardly a glance at your mental screen.

In case you think this is really difficult to do, remember that, as a child, and with no knowledge of the language to speak of, and no memory system to use, you actually learned the alphabet! It was done simply by repetition, and perhaps by reciting it rhythmically. So it’s obviously not a difficult thing to learn – it’s just that we don’t generally bother to learn it backwards!

Animals Alphabet List

You might find this list useful, based on easily visualised animals. It makes it fairly easy to create a lively, colourful set of images and scenes which you can use to link together any set of items you need to memorise. As always, the key is to be as creative and as ridiculous as you can!


>> Learning the Alphabet List

>> Animals Alphabet List

<< Memory Techniques


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