20 Rules of Formulating Knowledge

Piotr Wozniak, creator of SuperMemo and researcher of learning, created a list of "20 rules of formulating knowledge" back in 1999. You can see the semi-original article here.

The purpose of the article is to assist people in creating cards that are as useful as possible for them. However, the linked article is long and broken. It was likely taken from the original 20 rules page and copy-pasted without much thought. This page aims to be my own re-writing and understanding of the 20 rules with added emphasis and organization.

Here's the short version of the original 20 rules:

  1. Don't attempt to learn things you don't understand yet.
  2. Learn before memorizing - don't learn things for the first time using flash cards.
  3. Build on the basics - don't be afraid to memorize things that seem obvious.
  4. Write material as simply as possible. Make cards atomic.
  5. Use cloze deletion.
  6. Use imagery.
  7. Use mnemonic techniques.
  8. Graphic deletion is as good as cloze deletion. (image occlusion)
  9. Avoid sets.
  10. Avoid enumerations.
  11. Avoid interference of multiple concepts by making questions and answers as unambiguous as possible.
  12. Optimize wording.
  13. Refer to other memories.
  14. Personalize and provide examples.
  15. Rely on emotional states.
  16. Use context clues to simplify wording.
  17. Use redundancy.
  18. Provide sources.
  19. Provide dates - but don't always memorize them.
  20. Save time by prioritizing.