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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Is your communication CLEAR? Yes. When we use mnemonic devices.

The acronym CLEAR with 5 key points about communicating clearly.

Do you like easy ways to remember things? I do. That is why I loved this LinkedIn post from my friend and colleague Dr. Rene Roberts. I got to know Rene when we were on a panel together for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition in 2021.

Dr. Rene, as she is known to her patients, recognizes the importance of clear communication. In the post pictured above, she has employed a highly effective communication tool to help her remember and share with others her 5 points to CLEAR communication.

In this post, we will explore how this communication tool enhances learning and memory. In the posts to follow we will explore each letter in CLEAR and how what they stand for improves communication.

What is this communication tool? A mnemonic device.

A mnemonic (pronounced with the first m silent) device is a communication tool that helps us remember information. The type used in the example above is an acronym that creates a single word. Other mnemonics use rhythm, music, a visual image, or an acrostic which forms a sentence.

An example of music as a mnemonic device is learning your ABCs with the help of singing them to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I employed this tool when I taught nutrition to young children using familiar tunes to create songs about food, nutrition, and health.

You may have learned the names of the planets by memorizing this acrostic: MVery Educated Mother Just Sent UNine Pizzas. Since the word “Pizzas” now stands for a dwarf planet, teachers today may need a new acrostic if only teaching eight planets.

The use of the word CLEAR is effective as a mnemonic device because alone it describes a primary goal of communication – clarity – as well as each letter standing for additional key ideas for effective and clear communication.


Why do we need mnemonic devices?

We need mnemonic devices because our short-term (working) memory has a limited capacity for storing and processing information:

“The cognitive load theory suggests that working memory is affected by both the total load of information presented and the complexity of information presented. Working memory is also distracted by unnecessary, extraneous information. Effective communication does not overload the information processing and storing channels, but it reduces extraneous processing and manages essential processing.”

Mnemonic devices assist our short-term memory by condensing and simplifying information.

Does research confirm that mnemonic devices aid memory and learning?

Research on the use and effectiveness of mnemonic devices has been conducted for more than half a century with much of the research taking place in the 1980s. The links below will take you to a variety of research studies, reviews, and book chapters to learn more about mnemonics:

Research agrees that mnemonic devices aid memory and learning in a variety of populations and learning tasks.

How can we communicate clearly?

Communicating clearly involves many techniques and tools. Mnemonic devices can be one such tool for enhancing learning and retention in memory. How can you use mnemonics in your communication?

When communicating, whether one-on-one such as in a counseling encounter, or when exchanging ideas and information with large or small audiences, putting the principles in the CLEAR acronym into practice promotes effective communication.

In our next post, we will explore what the C in CLEAR stands for - the importance of communicating clearly and simply.

“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

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