How do you stop sho and shou catching you out?

I find I often remember the wrong reading for kanji that include one of these. I need to sort it out :slight_smile: I was just wondering what mnemonic you use to distinguish between them?

WK uses “show” for しょ and “shougun” for しょう, right? Is there something about that you don’t like?


It’s not ‘don’t like’, it’s more that I couldn’t visualise anything memorable when shougun was presented. And forming a distinct image is what the mnemonics depend on. A samurai is one thing to me. But a shougun not so much.

Back to the drawing board then. I was asking on the offchance someone might be in the same position and I could try their suggestion. But I guess we all have to find our own mnemonics if WK’s don’t work for us.

I used Shougun for しょう:

And mini-me in a shougun outfit for しょ:

WK recommends against the same word here but it worked for me.


WK has only 8 kanji with a on’yomi reading of しょ, compared to over 40 instances of しょう. Just remembering those should help.

08: 所 - Place
11: 初 - First
16: 書 - Write
17: 署 - Government Office
28: 処 - Deal with
33: 諸 - Various
38: 緒 - Together
54: 庶 - All

A mnemonic to remember:
FIRST WRITE them a letter, then we’ll go to that GOVERNMENT OFFICE PLACE and DEAL WITH VARIOUS things ALL TOGETHER.


I had no idea! Thank you so much, Tenugui.

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Personally, I remember long and short vowels using muscle memory and emotions. I read every new word I learn aloud, or at the least, I imagine how I would pronounce it in my head and mouth the words. For something like しょう, I would drag the sound out a bit. To me, it should feel smooth, consistent and calm. For short vowels like しょ, on the other hand, because I have to keep things short, I make sure I cut the sound off quickly, like the sound of a sharp knife hitting a chopping block after going through a carrot. I associate it with feelings of urgency, sharpness and precision. That way, I can feel it if I’m doing something wrong: しょう will feel incomplete or prematurely disturbed if I don’t drag it out long enough (imagine a bell being muffled right after being struck – not a very nice feeling, if you ask me); I’ll feel like I’ve missed a deadline if I forget to cut しょ off.

I guess doing that might not be enough for everyone though, and putting those emotions into words within a mnemonic might create confusion with regard to meanings. Also, admittedly, I usually do this to remember pronunciation in words, not for individual kanji (and so I tend to remember individual readings with the help of prior knowledge or thanks to words). I have to say though…

This mnemonic is really cool! :grin:


Thank you! Although this mnemonic practically wrote itself :joy:

Sadly this method doesn’t work well for me. I’m a strong visual learner, and can’t trust my memory for things that are sound related. WK’s use of English words that sound similar to the Japanese words for some mnemonics kills me because my first instinct is to use the literal English spelling. These days I usually try to link things back to a Japanese word I’ve learned before with the same spelling.

Along with that, I also have trouble remembering the correct Japanese vowels in vocabulary since English treats vowels kind of like the wild west. Any word can do almost anything it wants with a vowel sound in English :sweat:. It’s best if I can remember the visual of the kana spelling of the vocab.


Yeah, I understand, and I think what you’re doing with Japanese words you already know how to spell sounds like a good idea. Honestly though, what I’m doing isn’t purely auditory and emotional: I have a rough mental image of the space in my mouth as I pronounce things, and when I drag a vowel out, I see lines or a vaguely horizontal cloud, just like how I see a blade or my hand chopping through something when I cut a vowel short. I also have a habit of visualising spelling while saying a word, at least when I’m learning it for the first time, which would mean I visualise the kana (or the kanji if I know them well enough). I’m not really sure how to explain how to do it though… I’m just used to it, I guess, but I don’t know if these are skills and habits I developed, or things that I just do automatically. I think it’s probably something one can learn through practice? I try to use as many of my senses as possible to create images that are vivid and which make sense to me, and I like linking them to the feeling the concept behind each word evokes for me, because I believe (after some introspection) that we understand things in our native languages because of how they feel. That’s why we don’t need to think about them in terms of other words.

Yup, English is weird that way. Well, I hope you continue to find ways of making readings more memorable for yourself. :slight_smile:


This is pure gold, thank you!

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Oh wow, this is exactly what I (try to) do.

I feel the dragged out and smooth ending of しょう compared with the sharp cut off of しょ, at least in my head.

One quirk I’ve encountered is if I pronounce 東京 as the typical English “toe-kyo” it has started to feel wrong, but if I pronounce it as “to-u-kyo-u” I worry I’ll come across as showing off or someone might ask me to explain why I’m “saying it weird”.

Likewise I mostly do this for whole vocabulary words rather than individual kanji, and I then try infer the kanji readings by thinking of words containing them (although this often happens semi-subconsciously).