How to Memorize Verbatim Text

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Since memorizing verbatim text is one of the most common questions, there is now a wiki page for the topic.

Views on Verbatim Memorization

The ancient mnemonists distinguished between memoria rerum (memory for things) and memoria verborum (memory for exact words). The conclusion back then, and now, is that memoria verborum is much more difficult than memoria rerum:

'Things' are thus the subject matter of the speech; 'words' are the language in which that subject matter is clothed. Are you aiming at an artificial memory to remind you only of the order of the notions, arguments, 'things' of your speech? Or do you aim at memorising every single word in it in the right order? The first kind of artificial memory is memoria rerum; the second kind is memoria verborum. The ideal, as defined by Cicero in the above passage, would be to have a 'firm perception in the soul' of both things and words. But 'memory for words' is much harder than 'memory for things'; the weaker brethren among the author of Ad Herennium's rhetoric students evidently rather jibbed at memorising an image for every single word, and even Cicero himself, as we shall see later, allowed that 'memory for things' was enough.[1]

Before deciding to memorize every word, consider whether you really need to know every word or just the concepts in the book. For example, if you are trying to learn a text book, or even a speech or presentation that you have written yourself, you don't probably need to try to memorize every word.

Additional Resources

Here are some forum threads and other posts on this topic:


  1. The Art of Memory by Frances Yates