🗂️ Anki Guide #3: Cloze deletions

2023 November 04

Time for something a little more advanced! If you already cleared Parts 1 and 2 of the Learning Japanese with Anki series, then it's time to move on to cloze deletions!

What are cloze deletions?

Up until now, we've created Recognition and Recall cards that are essentially flashcards: write ABC on one side, XYZ on the other. This is fine for vocabulary words and set phrases. But after a certain point, you may start wanting to use more elaborate sentences. You don't necessarily want to memorize those sentences, but you still want to review them and quiz yourself on things like particles, or choosing which is the most appropriate word to fill in the blank, that kind of thing. And that's where cloze deletions come in. Cloze deletions, in essence, create fill-in-the-blank cards from your notes.

Let's say, for example, that you are trying to remember both the formal 硬い and informal 日常会話 way of saying, "like this." You could make three separate notes: one for このような, one for こうした, and one for こんな. But that's not very practical, since you want to study all three together as a group: quizzing yourself that このような means "like this" doesn't really stick. So instead, you could use cloze deletions to make one note that looks like this:

Anki note with formal "konoyouna" and "koushita" on one line and the casual "konna" on the next. All three words are bracketed off with cloze markers.

Which will generate three cards, the first looking like this:

The three words with "konoyouna" blanked out "konoyouna" given as the answer

And the second like this:

The three words with "koushita" blanked out "koushita" given as the answer

And the third like this:

The three words with "konna" blanked out "konnna" given as the answer

But before we can start making Japanese cloze cards like this, first we need to do kind of a lot of setup. I know! It sucks! But bear with me, because cloze deletions are very cool!!

Making the Japanese Cloze note type

It's time to once more go to Tools > Manage Note Types. Click the Add button, highlight Clone: Cloze, and then click OK. Rename your new note type to Japanese Cloze. (Note that you need "Japanese" somewhere in your note type for the furigana plugin to work.)

Adding a "Clone: Cloze" note type Renaming the note type to "Japanese Cloze"

Editing the Japanese Cloze fields

Next, highlight your new Japanese Cloze note type, then click Fields. Rename the Text field to Expression, then Add a new field named Reading. Remember, you need these two fields to generate furigana readings.

"Japanese Cloze" note type highlighted with the Fields button outlined in red Renaming the "Text" field to "Expression" Adding a new field named "Reading"

You can finish editing your note type here. But I also want to add a fields for Meaning, and rearrange things so that I can add new notes more quickly. Once you've got things the way you want, hit Save.

Expression, Reading, Meaning, and Back Extra fields on the note type, and the Save button outlined in red

Editing the Japanese Cloze card templates

Back on the Note Types window, highlight Japanese Cloze and then click the Cards button.

Japanese Cloze note type highlighted with the Cards button outlined in red

Click the Back Template. This is where you need to get a little fancy. Manually type in {{furigana:Reading}}. Note that using the Add Field button will not add the furigana, you need to type it in.

Back Template of the Japanese Cloze with "furigana: Reading" in the editor code, reflected in the Preview as (Reading)

Now to add in your {{Meaning}} field. I also personally like to add some <hr> lines and <br> spaces to make the back of the card a little easier to read:

Cloze: Expression, horizontal rule, furigana: Reading, horizontal rule, Meaning, two line breaks, and Back Extra in the editor code and reflected in the Preview

Save your card type, Close the Note Types window, and let's start adding cloze deletion notes!

Adding Japanese Cloze notes

Click the Add button, then click Type in the upper left corner, highlight Japanese Cloze, and then click Choose.

Adding a new Anki note and switching the note type to Japanese Cloze Blank Japanese Cloze note to be filled in

From there, enter your text into the Expression field, and let the Reading field populate.

The "konoyouna" "koushita" and "konna" example from above

AFTER you have let the Reading field populate, move on to the next step. I cannot stress enough that you do not want to move on before letting the Reading field populate. (It's not the end of the world, but it is a PITA having to delete the {{c1::}} stuff out of the Reading field.)

Next, highlight the part that you want to snip, then click the [...+] button:

"konoyouna" highlighted and the cloze button, brackets with ellipses and a plus symbol, outlined in red

Your editor should now look like this:

"konoyouna" bracketed and prefaced with c1 to indicate it has been clozed off

Do the same for anything else you want to cloze:

Same as above for "koushita" "koushita" bracketed off and prefaced with c2 Same as above for "konna" "konna" bracketed off and prefaced with c3

When you're finished, click Add. And voila! You have created a cloze deletion note which will generate the three fill-in-the-blank cards at the top of this section!

Other ways of using cloze deletions

Transforming words

Let's say you are studying how to conjugate verbs into their casual past tense forms, and want to quiz yourself by looking at the dictionary form. You could make a cloze note that looks like:

Japanese Cloze note with "Yesterday, I met Mary" in casual Japanese

From there, highlight 会った and cloze it off:

The above sentence with "met" highlighted and the cloze button outlined in red The casual "met" verb bracketed off and prefaced with c1

Then, edit the cloze so it reads {{c1::会った::会う}}:

Same as above but with the dictionary word "to meet" appended

Add this note, and when you go to review it, it should look like this:

Quiz showing "Yesterday, I (to meet) Mary" with "to meet" in brackets The answer correct conjugating the verb to show "Yesterday, I met Mary."

Multiple choice

Using the same idea as above, you can even add simple multiple choice questions. Try not to go too overboard since having too much info on the front of a card can be overwhelming. So something like this can be useful to quiz は vs が usage:

A paragraph with the particles "wa" clozed in two spots, and appended with "wa"/"ga"

Which will create two cards that look like:

The paragraph of text with a choice of "wa" or "ga" particles at one of the points The answer showing "wa" was correct Same as above for the second point The answer showing "wa" was correct

Fill in multiple blanks for one card

You can also use the [...] button without the + to create multiple cloze deletions for the same card. (You can also just check to make sure your c1, c2, etc are matching.) So for example, if you make a note that looks like this:

The sentences "Yesterday, I met Mary. Tomorrow, I will meet Bob." The words "Yesterday" and "Tomorrow" are outlined in red and prefaced with c1, and the words "met" and "will meet" outlined in blue and prefaced with c2.

Which will create two cards, the first of which will look like this:

The above sentence with "Yesterday" and "Tomorrow" blanked out The example sentence with "Yesterday" and "Tomorrow" filled in

And the second like this:

The example sentence with "met" and "will meet" blanked out The example sentence with "met" and "will meet" filled in

There's lots of simple ways to quickly turn your notes into cards using cloze deletions!

The Golden Rules of Anki

DO NOT overload your notes with too much stuff. It is tempting to dump an entire news article into a note and start clozing stuff off, but DO NOT DO THIS. I am telling you as someone who has suffered so much Anki regret. PLEASE LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

Try to limit the front of your cards to one, two sentences max. You should not take more than a few seconds to read whatever is on the front. If you bring up a card and it is just a big block of text that makes you want to give up studying, THAT IS TOO MUCH AND YOU NEED TO BREAK UP ITS NOTE INTO SMALLER CHUNKS, or rethink which part you actually want to retain and study. LESS IS MORE.

Likewise, DO NOT SPEND A LOT OF TIME MAKING A SINGLE NOTE. The idea is to crank out notes quickly and painlessly. Do not spend a lot of time formatting your cards' stylesheets to perfection. Do not add tons of fields to your note types that you need to fill out. You should be banging out notes quickly and in seconds, and spending the vast, vast, VAST majority of your time actually reviewing your cards. Your goal is not to have a perfect sparkling Anki deck, your goal is to LEARN JAPANESE. So get going!!