How to Make Up a Secure and Memorable Password
No article about passwords is complete without a list of all the ways to make sure your passwords are secure. Whatever passwords you create with this guide, make sure they:
- Are at least 10 characters long
- Don’t contain words found in the dictionary
- Have a variation of upper and lower case letters
- Include at least one number (123) and one special character (!@£)
- Don’t contain information easily connected to you, such as your birthday, phone number, spouse’s name, pet’s name, or home address
All those requirements may seem like a lot to wrap your head around, but you can create a secure password with three simple steps:
- Find a memorable base password
- Transform your password so it doesn’t use dictionary words
- Add symbols and numbers to your transformed password
Following those steps, you can vary your base password for each service you use so it’s always different. We’ll explain exactly how to do it below.
Find a Memorable Base Password
The first thing to do is find a base password that’s easy for you to remember but hard for other people to guess. You can use real words in your base password, but make sure you follow our advice to transform it later.
Here are some creative ideas for memorable base passwords. Try to choose one that lets you incorporate the service name as well, so it’s different for every account.
1. Choose Random Words From the Dictionary
This might be the best way to make up a secure base password because random words are harder for other people to guess. Open a dictionary at different pages and combine the first few words that catch your eye.
If you don’t have a paper dictionary, you could use the Word of the Day or any trending words from Dictionary.com.
I combined three trending words to come up with this password:
I can vary it by substituting one of the words with the service I’m signing in to:
2. Think of a Line From a Song
Use a line from a song or poem you like. But try to choose something that’s obscure and not too well known. It’s probably a bad idea to use the latest Taylor Swift chorus, for example.
Similarly, you could pick a line from a nursery rhyme or a well-known saying.
Here’s a line from a song I like:
If I was making up a creative password for Instagram, I could use:
3. Use a Line From Your Favorite Book
Again, don’t make this a famous line. Instead, pick up your favorite book and open a random page, then choose any line or phrase from that page. If you like, you can highlight this line and dog-ear that page making it easy to find again in the future.
You could even add the page or line number to your password as well.
I opened my book to page 67 and chose the phrase:
Adding a service name in there, it becomes:
4. Describe Something Around You
Most of us are always at our computer desk when we need to remember different passwords. For that reason, you might find it helpful to describe something around you and use that description as your base password instead.
Describe your desktop wallpaper, the view out the window, objects in the room, or pictures you have on the wall. But make sure the description is unique and unusual.
Here’s my description of a painting on my wall:
Again, I can easily substitute any of the words for a different service I’m using:
5. Create Your Own Phonetic Alphabet
The phonetic alphabet is a list of words you can use to refer to different letters when speaking over the phone or on the radio. It begins, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie for ABC.
Rather than using the standard phonetic alphabet, create your own alphabet using random words beginning with the same letters. Then use this alphabet to spell the first few letters of the service you’re creating a password for.
This means you can have a totally different base password for every account. All you need to do is memorize your phonetic alphabet.
Here’s my own alphabet for the first three letters of Facebook:
Transform Your Password
By now, you should have created a memorable base password that you can vary for different services you sign in to. It’s time to make your password more secure by transforming the common words you used so they aren’t standard dictionary words.
Here are some creative ideas for how to transform your password.
6. Play Around With the Vowels
You could remove the vowels from your base password, but that’s a little obvious. Instead, why not remove every other vowel, move vowels to the end of the word, or replace every a with an e?
Here’s my original base password:
Now I’ll move all the vowels to the end of each word to transform it:
7. Shorten Each Word
If you have a particularly long base password, you could remove the first three letters from each word. Other creative ideas include removing every other letter, removing all but the first and last letters, or only using the first letter from each word in your password.
Using the same base password as before:
I can remove the first three letters from each word to create:
8. Reverse Your Base Password
This is a simple way to transform your password so it doesn’t use words found in the dictionary. You could choose to reverse each word or reverse only one of them. However, you might want to combine this with another transformation method to make sure your password isn’t too simple.
Reversing the same base password I used before gives us:
9. Zipper Different Words Together
Use alternating letters from each of the different words in your base password to zipper them together. This is a genius idea for creating truly unintelligible passwords that are still easy to remember. Or at least, easy to work out.
It’s easiest to use this trick if you only use a few words in your base password. Type the first letter from each word, then the second letter, then the third, and so on until you’re out of letters.
The words making up my base password are:
Fire Aerosmith Chocolate
Which I can zipper together to create:
Add Numbers and Symbols
Your password isn’t complete until you add numbers and special characters to it as well. This final step takes it from relatively secure to practically unbreakable, although you will notice that our example passwords get much more difficult to read as a result, which is just another one of many reasons to use a password manager instead.
Here are the most creative ideas for adding numbers and symbols to your passwords.
10. Memorize a Random Sequence
The simplest way to add numbers and special characters to your passwords is to memorize a random string of them that you use in every password. You could add this string to the end, but it’s best to weave it throughout your password instead.
Here’s an example of some random numbers and special characters:
And here’s one of the transformed password we created:
Now, this is what happens when you put them together:
Nobody’s gonna guess that!
11. Count Something
A memorable way to keep varying the numbers you use in your passwords is to count up the vowels or consonants that appear in the name of the service. You could then input each of those numbers at different places in your password.
For example, my transformed password for Facebook:
Let’s add the number of vowels in Facebook to the beginning and the number of consonants to the end, making:
12. Use Motor Patterns
Motor patterns are not about remembering actual symbols or numbers. Rather, you create a pattern to follow based on where your fingers are on the keyboard. This is a great way to add symbols to your passwords, although it doesn’t work very well for mobile devices.
Instead of typing the first letter of each word, enter the number directly above it and the first symbol to the right on that row. This is just an example, you should create your own system for adding numbers and symbols instead.
Using those rules, my transformed password becomes:
13. Substitute Letters for Numbers and Symbols
There are lots of obvious ways to substitute letters with different numbers or special characters. Try to avoid the common substitutions and create your own instead. That way it’s harder for people—or computers—to work out the pattern.
Avoid common substitutions like these:
- a = @
- i = !
- o = 0
- s = $
Instead, create truly unique substitutions like these:
- a = ^
- i = [
- o = %
- s = &
I could use those same substitutions with my last transformed password to make:
This would be even stronger if I didn’t substitute the same letters every time.
A Password Manager Is Still the Best Option
Now you know how to make up memorable passwords that are different for every service. Although these creative ideas help make your passwords secure, they still aren’t as secure as a truly random password could be. But for that, you’d need to use a password manager.
There are plenty of great password managers on the market. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to keep all your passwords in one place, a good manager is usually far more secure than trying to remember all the different passwords yourself.
Please don’t forget to share this articles on all your social media handles for others to learn too. You can also find us on Facebook. Thank you.
See you soon!