Color: A Secret Weapon for Your Memory

How using color can help you remember things.

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read

When I was designing the iPad game Grammar Pop, one of the first things I did was choose the colors for the parts-of-speech. I put some thought into it; for example, since nouns are purple and gerunds and pronouns are noun-like, gerunds and pronouns are noun-related colors: light purple and pink. Verbs are yellow because it seems like a bright, active color to me. Infinitives are darker yellow because they are verb-like. Prepositions and conjunctions are bland colors because they are more abstract.

I’ve found that after playing the game for a year while I was developing it, I now strongly associate parts of speech with their color in the game. Verbs everywhere are yellow to me. Nouns just are purple.

colored buttons

I didn’t think about the importance of color too much until I changed the colors. For a development reason, I made them all a shade of green to make moving them around easier, but when I tried to play the game this way, I felt hindered. I couldn’t make my brain find the right buttons nearly as quickly.

green buttons

It reminded me of people with synesthesia (which has always fascinated me), who have extra or altered senses—for example, they can taste colors or they naturally associate letters with certain colors. A synesthete might always perceive the letter Y as blue, for example. It almost seems as if I have trained myself to have a synesthetic experience with parts of speech!

Using Spot-on-the-Page as a Study Aid

It also reminded me of a trick I used for studying biology in college: I would rewrite my notes from a class on a single page and use that to study for tests. I would begin to associate certain pieces of information with certain regions on the page; for example, the parts of a cell were in the upper right corner or the Punnett square was in the middle. Associating information with a region somehow seemed to help me recall that information more easily.

Using Color as a Study Aid

After my Grammar Pop experience with color, I’m willing to bet that my information would have been even easier to recall if I had color-coded it. Not only would Punnett squares be in the middle, they’d also be red, for example. Give it a try and let me know how it works. 

Grammar Pop

If the game sounds like fun to you, you can currently get Grammar Pop for the iPad in the App Store. I’m working on versions for other platforms, so look for those in the future


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.