The Cure To Your Word Finding Difficulties

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Stop Forgetting Words: How to Deal with Word Finding

“It’s right on the tip of my tongue!

What’s that word?”


How to Reduce Your Fillers

Aaagghh, don’t you hate it when this happens? It’s always at the most inappropriate time and can leave you up at night thinking to yourself at 2am “How did that happen!?”

Facepalm moment, am I right?

But hey, word finding probs happen to the best of us!

This little disruption is conveniently called the tip of the tongue phenomenon (TOT) and it can occur wherever and whenever.

TOT isn’t the only way word finding difficulties can occur.

Things like stress, fatigue, multitasking and just having too much on your brain can all impact your ability to recall information when it’s needed.

Your ability to recall information at a specific time relies heavily on 2 things that need to occur long before you want to use the information.

These factors are – 


  •  A whizz bang ability to store the required information effectively in your brain.


  • A super strong ability to retrieve the specific information stored in a particular area of your brain.

How Does Word finding work?

Think of your Brain as a Filing Cabinet…


And in your filing cabinet you’ve got lots of specific folders storing the information that you remember.

Now, just like a filing cabinet in your office, the more organised and methodically you’ve stored the information the easier it is for you to find when you need it.

Also, just like a real filing cabinet, the more you use the information in a specific folder the easier it will be for you to find that information the next time you need it. 


Your brain works the same way.

If you’ve stored the information well, it’s easier to recall. And if you use specific information more often, the more success at word finding you’ll have. 

Simply put, your brain recalls the info next time so much easier.

Now imagine...

something has happened to your brain’s filing cabinet and all the information is either mixed up in wrong folders or has been completely thrown on the floor into one big horrible mess.

What do you think this would do to your ability to recall information?

It would make it pretty difficult, huh?

All we would want is to stop forgetting the words.

Large scale difficulties can happen like this when brain damage has occurred.

But, in a less serious and more common instance, everyday forms of memory loss often occur because we either haven’t stored our information well enough in the first place or we’ve done something to make it difficult for us to recall the information we’ve stored (those factors I mentioned earlier including stress and fatigue are in this little category as well as just plain old fashioned poor storage).

This is why people with normal memories still wish they could stop forgetting words.

Your Recipe for Success

Your first line of defence to stop forgetting words is to make sure you’re storing your information effectively as soon as you receive it (yup, you guessed it, we can help you out with that). 


Secondly, you need to make sure you’re using the information carefully. Organising your info well will make it easier for you to stop forgetting words.  (Again, we are here to help!). 


And finally, you’re going to need some backup strategies for when all your hard word finding work has hit the fan and you’re standing in an important meeting and have a complete mental blank. 


So, now we all understand how important it is to  limit the chance of word finding problems happening, what should we do when it occurs?

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Here’s the 411…

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Well, here’s the bad new’s – TOT and overall word finding abilities get worse with age.

But here’s the good news – there are plenty of strategies we can use to minimize their likelihood.

Fill me in please! How do I fix word finding problems?

We’ve got lots of science based tips up our sleeves to help you strengthen your word finding so that you can feel more comfortable when speaking. 

But today, we decided to give you a simple, clear list of options.

We don’t want to bore you with our almost endless list!

Before we start, remember, everyone is a different communicator. To get real changes, it’s important to work with a specialist who can screen the best strategies for you.

But we digress…

As we said earlier, to really nip the word finding problems in the bud, your work needs to begin long before word finding difficulties occur.

But, everyone’s brain remembers best in different ways, and we want to be able to accommodate for that!

So here are 3 ways that you can get yourself out of word finding difficulty when it pops up. Hopefully one of these strategies work for you in your time of need!

Semantic Strategies

This approach relies on your ability to find words that have a similar meaning to the word you’re trying to remember.

By using this strategy you’re relying on your ability to call upon words within a similar grouping to help you or your communication partner determine what you’ve forgotten.

For example, let’s say you’ve forgotten the word “Voice Science”, if you’re using semantic strategies to help, you might be calling upon words like talking, vocalise, comment, speech pathology, health, or knowledge.

All of these words are somehow linked to “Voice” and “Science” and using the words may assist you to recall the missing words that seem to have vanished!

N.B. These types of strategies work well for a lot of people. A study by Hofferberth (2011) found that this is the most common strategy that peeps use to stop forgetting words. 

Phonological Strategies

Phonological strategies work on your ability to remember words based on the sounds that are included in the word. So again, if this time we forget the word “elocution”, we would start thinking about words that sound similar. Words could sound similar at the start, middle or end so might include vocabulary like egg, elephant, eviction, election, or element. These words are all linked to the word “Elocution” because of how similar they may sound.

Lexical Strategies

Here you count on your ability to link the same word with a different meaning. This can help you to find the word you forgot. 

Sound confusing?

Stick with us here…

Imagine you forget the name “Brad Pitt” (yeah we know, it’s a bit of a stretch to forget this guys name, but for the sake of the activity please play along!).

If you want to follow semantic recall then you would be thinking things like blond, actor, good looking, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie (Abrahams & Davis, 2016).

If you’re using phonemic recall you’re using words like Brett, Brendan, Ben, pull, push, pile, pick.

But, if you’re using lexical recall you’re thinking “My dog’s name is Brad and he plays in a sand pit”.

See how this strategy works by pulling on your vocabulary knowledge rather than your auditory or descriptive knowledge?

Want more information on how to  

  • Store vocabulary effectively?


  • Recall facts effortlessly?


  • Kick butt strategies for when you’re left scrambling for a response?


You’ve come to the right place.

Send us a message and the Voice Science team will be happy to assist. 

Or start today by enrolling in our Elocution & Communication Consultation


Abrams, L & Davis, D. (2016). The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon: Who, what, and why. 10.1075/z.200.  Retrieved 21 April 2020, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312550088_The_tip-of-the-tongue_phenomenon_Who_what_and_why


German, D. (2020). Asha.org. Retrieved 21 April 2020, from https://www.asha.org/Events/convention/handouts/2007/1366_German_Diane_J/.


Hofferberth, N. (2011). The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon: Search strategy and resolution during word finding difficulties. Isca-speech.org. Retrieved 21 April 2020, from https://www.isca-speech.org/archive/exling_2011/papers/el11_083.pdf.

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