Improve Memory Using First Letter Association Technique

First Letter Association Technique is a memory training technique, where you take the first letter of each word in a list of words you wish to remember and make a word or phrase associating to it. Abbreviations and acronyms are popular examples of first letter association.

An Example

Take a look at the following examples:

  1. Do you know the names of the five Great Lakes? Chances are you do, but it may be a bit tough to think of them. If you remember the first letter association HOMES, however, you’ll always be able to think of them: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
  2. What does U.S.A. stand for? If you said United States of America, you’re correct (and you thought these techniques were hard!)
  3. What does TGIF mean? “Thank God It’s Friday,” a popular refrain.

Why Is First Letter Association Technique Is So Popular?

The first letter associations are so popular because they are such a powerful ways for us to remember things. Let’s look at why:

  1. First letter associations let us know when we’re done. You know that if you match an item or word with every letter on that list you’re finished, when you have a first letter association for a list. In other words, everything you need to remember is in that first letter association.
  2. First letter associations give us clues. It’s always easier to recollect information when you have a little help doing so. First letter associations give us the first letter for whatever it is we are trying to remember. That first letter acts as a prompt (or clue) which is a big boost to our memory.
  3. First letter associations get us to focus attention and give sense to material we are learning.
  4. First letter associations allow us to remember more by memorizing less. When we use a first letter association we reduce the material we must memorize. Since the method takes the first letter of each item on a list and makes a meaningful word or acronym from those letters, it considerably shortens the amount of information you need to commit to memory. Take the above example of using the word HOMES to help recall the names of the five Great Lakes. When you recall that one word it reminds you of the five names you need.

Link Technique Exercise

Now you can see why the First Letter Association Technique is so useful and so popular. Let’s try a first letter association exercise using the list from the Link Technique exercise:

  • Table
  • Pen
  • Locket
  • Umbrella
  • Salt

I take all the first letters of the items on this list to apply the First Letter Association Technique:

T – Plus

Next, I see if I can make up a word to help me remember these letters. “T-PLUS” is a rather obvious choice here. Another possible first letter association for this list might be “PLUST.” I simply need to remember “T-PLUS” to jog my memory for table, pen, locket, umbrella, salt, when I later need to remember this list,.


Of course, there are some drawbacks to the First Letter Association Technique. First letter associations need a bit of creative energy. Additionally, these associations can be difficult to create in certain situations, such as when you have a list that has no words beginning with a vowel.

While there are ways around such problems, first letter association is not the easiest internal memory technique available. However, it possesses some unique characteristics that make it an efficient way to boost your brainpower, particularly if you enjoy a challenge.



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