The Protojournalist
11:11 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Forget Speed-Reading. Here's Speed-Writing

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 2:43 am

Speed-reading all rage. Suddenly many speed-reading apps. Spritz. Spreeder. Others.

Some inspired by method RSVP — rapid serial visual presentation.

"Rather than read words

from left to right,"

says Marc Slater, managing director of Spreeder parent company eReflect.

"RSVP

allows

users

to

read

the

words

quickly.

A few at a time."

Prose, Cons

Speed-reading has fans. And detractors.

But maybe we've got it wrong. Maybe it's not about reading faster. But writing faster.

Speed-writing.

For speed-readers.

Only essential ideas. Omit extra words. Few prepositions, fewer articles. Boil down.

Why make readers work harder? Make writers do heavy lifting. Decide important things. Write those.

Quick History

Americans have been intrigued by speed-reading for a long time. Back in the 1930s, researchers were exploring systems to help people read faster. At Stanford University, according to the New York Times in 1934, researchers took photos of people's eye movements, then taught participants new methods of reading in phrases — not words — and using a sort of metronome to increase reading speed.

In the late 1940s, the University of Virginia's Reading Clinic devised a new method of speed-reading, using vertical lines and an alarm clock. "There are two ways to read: microscopically — which is the old way — and telescopically," professor Ullin Leavell, the center's director, told the Los Angeles Times in 1949. "Today we are attempting simply to develop an individual to see a thought unit, instead of individual parts."

Some fast thinkers — Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, for example — were natural born speed-readers, according to the website of the late speed-reading pioneer Evelyn Wood. From the moment she opened her Reading Dynamics school in Washington in 1959, the LA Times reports, her name was synonymous with readingreallyfast.

Fast-Forward

Now --with computers — RSVP the new rage.

Readers "less likely to subvocalize — say the words in their head as they read — when using RSVP," Marc Slater says.

This increases reading speed "because saying words in your head is often the slowest link in the reading chain."

Speed reading "not usually appropriate for reading difficult content or abstract concepts," Marc says.

"In these cases, it is understanding that limits comprehension, not the rate of input."

Extreme example: "You might read about a really difficult concept in one paragraph and think about it for a week before you truly understand it."

Speed-reading, Marc says, "definitely won't help in cases like that."

And speed-writing?

Jury out.

The Protojournalist: Experimental storytelling for the LURVers – Listeners, Users, Readers, Viewers – of NPR. @NPRtpj

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