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September 21, 2017

What’s the Effect (or is it Affect) of Poor Memory?

Ed Pearcey

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Have you ever had something that you need to remember, which – no matter how hard you try – just won’t stick in your memory?

A person’s name, an address, a year? Every time you try to recall it, your brain grinds to a shuddering halt and then goes blank.

My particular problem wasn't so much not being able to remember a specific item or person. It was more that I couldn't remember the difference between two (fairly common) English words: affect and effect.

Improving the Memory

This was a bit of an issue for me, because I’ve tried to make a living as a sub-editor for the last two decades (studiously checking other people’s written words for mistakes and misunderstandings just like this).

So, how did I overcome this problem and keep the cash rolling in? With the help of a mnemonic device. I needed to embed in my mind that "affect" is almost always a verb, while "effect" is almost always a noun.

I mentally linked the words "effect" and "noun" using a story: David, an office manager, was always running late for work. Actually running (and occasionally diving) into the office.

He was "genuinely sorry for the effect his lateness" was having on his team’s performance, or so he said every day.

Even so, his colleagues were becoming increasingly frustrated. So, they decided to block the office entrance at 9am every morning with a large, thick slab of black granite!

It had the word “NOUN” carved into it in large letters. If you saw it, it meant you were late, you couldn’t get into the office, and you'd have to explain your absence to the boss.

The Weirder the Better

Yeah, I know, not a particularly plausible story. Where did the granite come from, and how could you even move it without huge machines?

But, the weirdness is really the point. The story is more than a little odd, but it contains striking images, has a clear narrative, and (in my experience anyway) certainly aids recall.

Your Experiences

Memory is an important work skill, even in the age of Google. It can help you to conduct negotiations, make decisions quickly, and impress clients with your knowledge.

Do you have any suggestions or advice on useful memory techniques? Are there any that you find particularly useful? What were the results? Have your say by adding your comments in the box below.

And, check out our latest infographic on the memory techniques of The Link and Story Methods here.

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3 comments on “What’s the Effect (or is it Affect) of Poor Memory?”

  1. I think it is a very effective literal prose to illustrate / delineate "mnemonic.....affect/effect.....allow me to digress and ask you to be Candid and tell me how I scores from 1 to 10 with my response.

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