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[P]
How to Read Quickly Without Really Trying

By Cant Say in Media
Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:58:31 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

Many diary entries and attempted stories have recently focused on the importance of reading. However, one discouraging aspect of reading is reading: it takes so much time to read books, and the number of good books is so vast, that people often quake in fear and end up reading nothing at all. Or, because people think at roughly five hundred words per minute, but only read at roughly two hundred and fifty words per minute, they simply become bored and cannot engage actively with the text. Being able to read quickly eliminates both objections.


All works

1. Enlarge Your Vocabulary

In my opinion, this is the single most important requisite for reading. If you don't understand a key term or two, the work quickly becomes incomprehensible. Unfortunately, the only way to acquire a decent vocabulary is by reading. However, reading alone will not help. Use a dictionary to look up any words you don't know. It may be quite a learning curve at the get-go, but soon you won't need to use the darned thing at all, especially as words start to acquire meaning through context.

2. Eliminate Sub-Vocalization

One of the greatest inhibitors to reading is speaking. Often as people read they make the word sound, either with their mouth, or in their head. Since you're reading the text, and not performing it, eliminate this sub-vocalization. Personally, this was the hardest bad habit for me to break. If you can't seem to stop `hearing' the words, try focusing on key words and meaningful concepts to force yourself to read faster. If you can force your mind to pay attention, your speed will increase, as well as your comprehension.

3. Limit Points of Fixation

Your eye must be still in order to comprehend information. As you read, it jumps quickly from point to point along the line you read. Unfortunately, much of our reading is redundant. For example, the average reader will read, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." with the following point of focus: was, best, times, was, worst, times, was, age, wisdom, was, age, foolishness." Unfortunately, this is incredibly redundant. Your peripheral vision takes in much more than two or three words. So on the first reading stop, it picked up, "It was the best..." Unfortunately, the second stop picked up, "was the best of times..." Rather, one should read the phrase selecting: best, worst, age, age. With this simple adjustment, we reduced reading time by roughly two thirds.

4. Use a Pointer

Using the point of a finger, or the end of a bookmark, can rapidly increase your average words per minute. However, using a pointer in the wrong way can significantly decrease your average words per minute. Do not trace under every word with your pointer. Rather, trace down the center of the text. This helps train your eye to stay towards the center of the page, and helps decrease points of fixation. Furthermore, it helps avoid re-reading passages, because your pointer will not allow you to return to previous phrases. Train yourself to keep your eyes on or near your pointer, and don't let them return to previous lines.  This also assists in comprehension, because completing paragraphs sooner allows the entire paragraph to `glom' while in short-term memory.

Non-Fiction

5. Overview

When you set out on a car trip, if you don't know where you're going, you won't get there very fast. When reading a book, knowing where you're about to go is also important. Whenever I pick up a new book, I skim it in five to ten minutes. Read the jacket of the book, skim the preface and introduction, and read the last few pages to get the conclusion. Sometimes I scan the index, and I always skim the glossary if there is one. Finally, skim the entire book at the rate of 2-3 seconds per page (sometimes longer if there are interesting graphics). Once you finish this stage, you must decide whether or not the book is worth reading. Sometimes it's not: put it back on the bookshelf, give it to a friend, or file it for future reference.

6. Preview

Skim the entire book at a slower rate, somewhere between four and ten seconds per page. Look for structure and organization as well as key concepts. Often, the best way to tell key concepts is by recognizing repeated phrases, graphics, and typefaces. Once you finish previewing, write a quick summary of the book, not to exceed one-half a page. This helps solidify the thesis and supporting evidence in your mind. Sometimes a book can be left at this stage, or specific chapters may be reviewed in depth, while the rest is left untouched.

7. Read

As you dive into the book for a thorough reading, much of what you now examine is readily intelligible. Preview each chapter again, spending a half a dozen seconds on each page. As you read, read every phrase as fast as comfortable. If you have any notes, place them in the margin, but don't underline the text. If you want to mark a passage, but you don't have any notes, place a simple check mark in the margin even with the passage.

8. Post-view Immediately

Re-read the marked sections of the text. Write a small (one to four sentences) summary at the beginning of the chapter. If you ever need to return to the text, the information is much more easily found with summary markings.

Practice

As with any skill, reading gets better with practice. It may be hard at first, especially if you have a weak vocabulary or poor habits deeply entrenched. If you keep practicing, the going gets easier, and you'll be reading faster than you ever thought possible. Reading fast makes reading more enjoyable, and allows for better comprehension. Remember: some books are easier to read quickly than others. I don't think Kant can be read at seven hundred and fifty words per minute, no matter who you are.



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How to Read Quickly Without Really Trying | 150 comments (138 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Enlarge Your Vocabulary (2.00 / 2) (#6)
by nodsmasher on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:29:26 PM EST

you can do this, or just figure out what words mean by looking at their context, much easier then looking it up, same principle can work for names, don't bother sounding them out, just make up a pronunciation that looks at least approximately right.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
No, you can't be your own dictionary (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by MuglyWumple on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:24:58 AM EST

...for that mellifluous word may be the key to the sentance. Furthermore, you'll never now if it's mellifluous.


[ Parent ]
Indeed (none / 0) (#127)
by oojah on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 09:19:40 AM EST

I always have a dictionary to hand and don't hesitate to use it, much to the amusement of my friends.

And to the person who thinks that using obscure words is bad writing, how can you justify denying people words like mellifluous which is such an enjoyable word to say. I love words like that. Serendipity is another one. Just really feels nice.

Roger

[ Parent ]

Why be your own dictionary? (none / 0) (#143)
by PTBear on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 01:35:46 PM EST

You can always just keep a bookmark to a great dictionary page. This works great when people start using big words on the web.

----------------------------------------

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

-Attributed to Sigmund Freud
[ Parent ]

Heh (4.33 / 3) (#38)
by driph on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 07:37:17 AM EST

And see children, this is where not looking up words in the dictionary leads us... :]

Personally, I tend to use business cards or other random pieces of paper for bookmarks, and I'll write new words(or words I know vaguely) on the bookmark as I go... Yeah, 99% of the time you can guess the meaning from the context and possibly the makeup of the word, but it's also nice to expand your vocabulary. Plus, the act of writing it down and then deliberately looking it up at a later time helps in securing the new word within your mind(at least for me).

And yeah, regarding the name thing, I'm exactly the same way. Any fantasy or strange scifi name is usually reduced to a nebulous form in my head that I recognize as the character's name whenever I read it. Unfortunately, that tends to hamper my ability to actually refer to particular characters when talking about em("you know, that K-named guy")...

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]

Pronunciation (4.00 / 2) (#54)
by zakalwe on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:35:51 AM EST

I tend not to bother with dictionaries either, since this breaks the flow of the book for me.  Fortunately I rarely come across words I don't recognise anymore (unless I'm reading Gene Wolfe.)

I've noticed the downside of this is that I frequently get pronunciations wrong.  I only recently realised that the word I'd seen written, and assumed was pronounced "Epi-tome" and the spoken word "ee-pit-oh-me" are not in fact different words.  The similar definitions should have clued me, and might have done in if I'd ever had cause to wonder how to spell it.

[ Parent ]

boosting my vocabulary (none / 0) (#66)
by Kablooie on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:52:06 PM EST

Further to this: I often pick up new words by figuring them out from the context. Then, when the word comes up in real life, I remember the word and the context it came from. The bulk of the time, I never have to look anything up. Kablooie!!

[ Parent ]
force yourself to read faster? (4.60 / 10) (#7)
by speek on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:29:33 PM EST

Personally, I read for pleasure. If I had to read something for work or school that I didn't want to read, this all sounds like good advice.

Speed reading is something I've tried. It was a really strange experience. Forcing my eyes to flow down the page at a constant rate, scanning the words without sub-vocalizing - I found I did actually have a good comprehension of what I'd just "read". However, I couldn't really remember just how I'd gotten that comprehension - it was just there.

Reading a story like this just plain sucks. It might be passable for uninteresting stories where there's no real characters or imagery - just basic plot, but it's an unfulfilling way to read most stories - for me anyway. I'd rather savor the moments, the images, the characters, and the story itself.

Frankly, when I read, I stop very frequently and let my mind wander over thoughts that the book brings to mind. This is especially true for non-fiction. This slows down my reading considerably, but increases my enjoyment of it and, IMO, increases what I get out of it intellectually.

--
what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck -

Practice for Pleasure (4.25 / 4) (#9)
by Cant Say on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:47:05 PM EST

During a significant span of my life, I played tennis. I loved playing tennis. I hated loosing. I loved playing tennis even if I lost, but I enjoyed it more if I won. In order to improve my skill, I had to often work out in the gym. I hate the gym. With a passion. But there were certain exercises I could do in the gym that I couldn't do simply playing more tennis.

In much the same way, developing reading skills enables one to enjoying the reading more than they would have had they not practiced.

I find reading stories like this is not only as interesting, but allows me to read more of an author, as well. For example, I enjoy works by Lewis Carroll. However, he's published so much that I'd not be able to immerse myself in his writing without sacrificing reading in other areas. However, with speed-reading, I'm able not only to enjoy his works, but other people's writing as well.

Finally, I highly suggest taking time to reflect on the reading one does. I've found Goodkind's Sword of Truth series highly enjoyable; full of rich realms and sufficiently deep characters. I often pause as I read his books. However, this does not mean I shouldn't read effectively when I actually have my eye on the page. Learning how to avoid sub-vocalizations and effective fixations enables me to spend proportionally more time letting my mind wander, enjoying the moment, rather than less.

In conclusion, I think all of your objections to speed-reading ultimately turn out to support learning how to read quickly and effectively.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

could be right (none / 0) (#45)
by speek on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:48:29 AM EST

You may be right. It's possible that if I kept at it, eventually the discomfort of suppressing sub-vocalizations and forcing my eyes to scan smoothly would fade, and I'd be able to get back to the enjoyment of reading, only now faster.

You've given me reason to try again, and we'll see how it goes.

--
what would be cool, is if there was like a bat signal for tombuck - [ Parent ]

Perhaps... (5.00 / 1) (#97)
by Bnonn on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 06:24:38 PM EST

...or perhaps not. I think it's a very subjective thing. Frankly, I'm not much keen on calling speed-reading "effective reading". Certainly it's effective in some circumstances, and more so for some people than others. But for me, speed-reading any decent fiction (or poetry) just won't work. I find it completely ineffective. This is, perhaps, because I am a writer myself and I find as much enjoyment in the structure of sentences, and words chosen, as in the actual content of the passages, but I think this applies to a lot of people. It would be a mistake to believe that appreciating how a book is written is "ineffective" because your focus is purely on the content.

I know efficiency is something particularly appealing to nerds, but when it comes to books I don't think it's so easy to define. And personally, I take a lot of pride in my own writing and derive a great deal of personal pleasure from the knowledge that other people appreciate and enjoy the way I write--not just what I write.

Basically, you've gotta ask yourself what you want to get out of reading.

[ Parent ]

Yes indeed, good sir. (none / 0) (#133)
by sean23007 on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 11:27:48 PM EST

I agree with you completely in that respect. As I have honed my own skills as a writer, I have found that the way a sentence is written is at least as important, if not more so, than its actual contents. A work can be focused upon something absolutely frivolous and otherwise unworthy of attention, but if it is put to paper with a certain air of zest by the bally author then it can catch the eye as easily as a scantily clad member of the fairer s'.

Of course, a frivolous story need not be unworthy, and indeed I have found myself rather taken by a rather elderly chap of a writer, by the name of Wodehouse, with whom I find I share a certain similarity of penning nature. The first book of his that I read felt as if I had written it myself, and needless to say, I was rather taken aback by the similarities in our particular styles. Many works, like those of Wodehouse, are completely unreadable if one attempts any type of "speed reading," but if said one subvocalizes and takes his or her jolly time the enjoyment is often unbridled.

To sum up, so to speak, it is more important in some, if not many, cases that a work of words be composed with considerable literary vim than it is that the author crams as much deep meaning between the lines that is intended to do nothing more than confuse the reader. Cheers!

Lack of eloquence does not denote lack of intelligence, though they often coincide.
[ Parent ]
I agree (none / 0) (#99)
by BLU ICE on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:05:09 PM EST

When I read novels or something enjoyable, I read much slower than I otherwise would. I like to savor the words and think about it more.

However, speed reading would be great for things such as manuals.

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

fast reading (4.42 / 7) (#8)
by damiam on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:34:10 PM EST

I don't use any special speed-reading tricks, but I read at a pretty fast rate. While, in many cases, this is a good thing, it's not always the best idea.

If you speed-read a fiction book, you're reading the book with the goal of finishing it, not of fully enjoying it. The faster you read, the more of the book you start to miss, and the less enjoyable the experience of reading it becomes.

As for non-fiction books, sometimes the best way to comprehend a book is to simply read the book. It's not skimming the book, writing a summary, and then possibly going and looking back over some selected portions. Maybe that's the best way if you're on a deadline and you absolutely have to have read a book by a certain time, but that's not a situation I encounter very often.

These techniques may help you improve the speed of your reading, but I doubt they'll do much good for the quality of it.

Fast reading (4.16 / 6) (#10)
by Cant Say on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:59:15 PM EST

"If you speed-read a fiction book, you're reading the book with the goal of finishing it, not of fully enjoying it."

I couldn't disagree more. I read fast so that I may enjoy more books, not so that I can 'get this one out of the way'. If anyone tries to read simply to 'check that one off the list' they've missed the point of reading: entertainment and education. Speed reading in no way precludes either of these goals.

"The faster you read, the more of the book you start to miss, and the less enjoyable the experience of reading it becomes."

I know some people speed read poorly, but in none of my suggestions do I advocate missing sections of the book. For instance, some people 'chunk' their reading, grabbing whole paragraphs at a time, without reading the words. While this might be acceptable for The Iliad or Lord of the Rings, a book like The Brothers Karamazov cannot be appreciated when one skips details of the text. However, reading quickly by avoiding redundancy in no way lessens the sense of enjoyment that comes from reading a book.

"As for non-fiction books, sometimes the best way to comprehend a book is to simply read the book."

True, but obviously how you read the book plays an important role. If I read a book in a noisy environment, I quickly forget information. In the same way a poor environment can hurt reading, so too can poor reading styles hurt comprehension. By exposing yourself to a text multiple times, there are multiple impressions of the information, which increases overall retention of the information.

"It's not skimming the book, writing a summary, and then possibly going and looking back over some selected portions."

I'm afraid you missed my point. Very often, reading non-fiction harms my enjoyment of fiction, because I forget reading can be fun. Rather than waste my time reading information I don't care about, I skim the book and can focus on reading only those sections with pertinent information. Furthermore, I never suggested you not read books if the entire book is important (for example, in a classroom situation). However, even in that environment, reading the text multiple times at multiple levels of depth increases information retention without significantly increasing (often even decreasing) the time spent reading.

"These techniques may help you improve the speed of your reading, but I doubt they'll do much good for the quality of it."

I couldn't disagree more, for the reasons posted above. Exposing oneself to information more than once, and reading the text only once, increases both the quantity and the quality of texts consumed.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

Just out of curiosity... (5.00 / 1) (#89)
by janra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:03:35 PM EST

in none of my suggestions do I advocate missing sections of the book. [...] However, reading quickly by avoiding redundancy in no way lessens the sense of enjoyment that comes from reading a book.

So, skipping redundancies is ok. My question is, how do you determine what in a sentence is redundant (and therefore "skippable") without reading it in full first? Or do you just skip stuff that looks like redundancies? What if it isn't actually redundant? Then you're skipping sections of the sentence, which you say you don't advocate.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
I tell you what redundancies are (none / 0) (#116)
by Cant Say on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 03:28:02 AM EST

Redundancies occur when your periphial vision overlaps text. I spend a considerable amount of time explaining this both in my post, and in this comment. You don't ever skip lines in fiction, you simply don't read them over and over again.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
Subvocalisation (4.20 / 5) (#12)
by Deus Horribilus on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:12:34 AM EST

As you have said, the elimination of subvocalisation from your reading habits was by far the most difficult, but it is something I would like to try. Unfortunately there is no elaboration on techniques to achieve this in your article. What advice would you or any other readers give to somebody trying to achfieve this?

Moreover, since virtually all of my thinking would be described as subvocalisation, what would I actually process in my consciousness whilst I am reading an article such as yours?

Incidentally, +1FP with the warning that even though faster reading is a great thing, expect more K5 readers to misinterpret articles and generate useless and inflammatory commentary even more than they already do, because of their desire to read through the articles faster... it does take practice.

_________________________________________
"Beliefs are never concrete, they change direction like autumn leaves in a windstorm..."

Ah, the old... (none / 0) (#15)
by MuglyWumple on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:28:14 AM EST

"How do I know what I think, until I hear what I say?"

[ Parent ]
not really (none / 0) (#59)
by janra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:32:08 PM EST

Some people are more prone to thinking in actual audible words and sentences, while some think more in visible words and sentences, and some think in images and concepts. None of this involves actually making a sound, or writing it down, or drawing a picture.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
you misunderstood (none / 0) (#108)
by martingale on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:18:20 PM EST

Of course people don't make a sound when thinking, usually, but if you're one of those who think in words and sentences, it feels like a monologue. And yes, I for example find it nearly impossible to *not* express my thoughts in imaginary sentences. I can have a flash of insight, but I can't put my mind around it until I've expressed it verbally. It's like I have to capture the thought or else it might as well not exist.

Incidentally, that's a great way I find of clearing my mind. When I don't want to think at all, I just refuse to state any thoughts verbally. The thoughts are still there, but very fuzzy and they disappear without a trace as quickly as they come.

So what I'm saying is that MuglyWumple's statement is actually quite deep.

[ Parent ]

Subvocalisation (none / 0) (#142)
by d40cht on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:36:40 AM EST

I would have thought there was enough material for discussion in how we all solidify our ethereal pre-thoughts for a whole article. Any takers... :)

[ Parent ]
subvocalization (none / 0) (#82)
by chocolatetrumpet on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:43:32 PM EST

This is sort of weird, but if I don't "subvocalize" what I read, the images have absolutely no meaning at all. Even the most basic words mean nothing unless I hear the sound.

The truth is in the ice cream.
[ Parent ]

personal experience (3.33 / 6) (#13)
by danny on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:19:38 AM EST

#1 - I'll occasionally use a dictionary (or ask someone else) to find the meaning of a word, but more often I just try to get it from context. I consider it bad writing to have passages critically dependent on obscure words.

#2 - I've never thought about this. I think I sub-vocalize when writing - to get a feel for the flow of the language - but rarely during reading. There are certainly works (and not just poetry) where sub- or even full vocalisation makes sense, mind you.

#3 - Does one have much conscious control over points of fixation? Especially if one's screaming through something at 1000wpm, that has to be unconscious, surely.

#4 - I've never used a pointer and it seems like a strange idea to me. But if it helps some people, go for it.

#5 - I generally do an "overview" like this before even buying a book, though that's dependent on having access to a copy of the book in a shop or a library or from a friend.

#6 and #7 - I tend to read cover to cover, occasionally reading forwards to see what's coming and sometimes reading back to follow connections. I never write in books, but write up some notes on computer as I go.

#8 - I write book reviews.

Danny.
[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Good Guide, (4.71 / 7) (#16)
by thadk on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:33:29 AM EST

After much googling and persistence to find a decent guide online to increase read-speed, I ran across good excerpts from "Look Ma! No Hands!! Speed Reading with Semantic Restructuring". I tried them out, was impressed by the results. To my disappointment though I never did find the book anywhere available to buy.

Since then the author's site has appeared to have died so I grabbed the google cache to it while it was still around and mirrored it off on my site. The main premise of the guide is to get you to stop sub-vocalizing and start using peripheral vision (both mentioned above) by practicing reading at specific paces and counting aloud to remove the sub-vocalization. I only got through about 7 days of drills (10 min a day/4wks total) but I'm satisfied with the results (450-550wpm when I want to). If you're looking to remove sub-vocalization, you can start here and use this index to move on. After the first 3 pages (named accordingly) specific order doesn't matter much.

From my experience I find that I visualize scenes more when I'm not sub-vocalizing it all, but as always YMMV. Also, it's not for everything, poems and other things need sub-vocalization to 'sound' right.

On a separate note, looking up words is much more practical when it's convenient and you don't have to do more than type in a word. Simple Task-bar and URL bar configuration make it nice and quick, at least when web browsing.



Guide Back up, (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by thadk on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:05:57 AM EST

I just double checked on google again and it looks like the guide was recently restored to the web by the author: here.



[ Parent ]
Good tip (none / 0) (#22)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:21:04 AM EST

Speaking aloud some fixed pattern will probably make breaking the sub-vocalization habit much easier to break. As I mentioned, it's one of the fiercest limiters of speed, and was for me the most difficult habit to break. Thanks for the link!

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
more enjoyable? better comprehension? (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by tiger on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:44:25 AM EST

Reading fast makes reading more enjoyable, and allows for better comprehension.

This sounds like your wishful thinking. Can you justify these claims?

--
Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child



I thought I did justify them, sorry (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:14:49 AM EST

Reading quickly makes reading more enjoyable because your brain isn't bored. On average, people think at about five hundred words per minute. On average, people read roughly two hundred and fifty words per minute. When you read as quickly as you think, your mind wanders less. My great difficulty with reading, especially in early high school, was that I would often start letting my mind wander, even as I read the paragraph. I'd reach the end of the page, and not remember any of what I read. I found myself enjoying reading much more when I wasn't bored.

Reading comprehension goes up for the same reason reading enjoyment goes up: you're more involved with the text. Furthermore, as I mention elsewhere, when you expose yourself to the text multiple times, information becomes deeply embedded.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

Read at comprehension speed (5.00 / 2) (#83)
by texchanchan on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:58:17 PM EST

Right, I agree with what Cant Say said ("I found myself enjoying reading much more when I wasn't bored").

If you're not reading at the speed of comprehension, then you've got waste cycles going on, starting new trains of thought that have nothing to do with the book.

I read at the speed of comprehension, which has been (for me) about 800 words a minute since I was 12 or so. This isn't speed reading, but lets me get through several megs of literature a week.

The downside is, I find it really hard to learn from spoken information. The bandwidth is just too low. Talking plus pictures is OK; but listening to lectures--my attention cuts out, and I find I don't remember a thing. And as for someone reading ... slowly ... aloud ... the contents of each Power Point slide--AAAAAAARRRRRRGHHH!!

[ Parent ]

"Waste" cycles? (none / 0) (#110)
by phliar on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:31:58 PM EST

If you're not reading at the speed of comprehension, then you've got waste cycles going on, starting new trains of thought that have nothing to do with the book.
What is the speed of comprehension?

Quite often I find that I don't truly understand a significant [to me] book when I read it. True understanding seems to require random connections and reflection triggered by the memory of passages in the book. I read much faster than the time it would take me to appreciate what I'm reading -- this allows my mind to race ahead and stay interested.

At the same time there are other trains of thought. To me those "waste" cycles are very important because they point out connections between what I'm reading and just random shit from my life. On my first reading of a book I won't be able to remember every significant point made, or the author's writing style. Luckily there is no law that says you can only read a book once. (In fact off-hand I can't think of a book I've only read once... but this means I must buy those books so I can read them again at a moment's notice a year from now. The only drawback to this is that you forget what the inside of your house looks like because there are books everywhere.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

I don't see how this can work with fiction... (4.14 / 7) (#19)
by dipierro on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:58:42 AM EST

When I read fiction I usually want to linger for a while on a certain page or three. It's about the suspense of the situation, not just about what actually happens. You could watch a movie at twice the speed and you'd still understand what was going on, but would you want to?

I could see how this is useful for non-fiction, or psuedo-non-fiction like K5 :). But has anyone here actually read a novel this way? Isn't it incredibly less fun?


In capitalism, man exploits man. In socialism, it's the other way around.
Just as fun (4.33 / 3) (#23)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:26:27 AM EST

I wish I could say it was more fun, but then I'd be lying. However, reading quickly in no way detracts from the text. damiam pretty much already made this comment and I have two comments that you might find helpful. But to summarize: reading faster does not mean reading less (according to what I presented above - some speed reading does remove text, but I abhor it), nor does it mean not engaging with the text.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
Combining speeds (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by texchanchan on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 04:10:20 PM EST

When I read fiction I usually want to linger for a while on a certain page or three.

And so do I sometimes. Nothing prevents me from slowing down.

But has anyone here actually read a novel this way?

Sure, all the time.

Isn't it incredibly less fun?

No.

If it's a novel (or any other kind of book, let me recommend this and its other volumes) by somebody with beautiful word skills, I slow down and admire, like I would slow down during a scenic stretch on the highway.

Because you can do something faster, doesn't mean you have to all the time.

[ Parent ]

Fiction can be read fast (none / 0) (#111)
by phliar on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:40:34 PM EST

When I read fiction I usually want to linger for a while on a certain page or three.
So do I. And you know what? I have that power!

I am not a "speed reader" (seems to be a TV marketing ploy something like "phonics") but I do read much faster than others I hang out with. They sometimes say things like the above to me. I tell them that not only do I linger whenever I feel like it, I also feel free to go back (or forward) in the book. And of course I feel free to read the book again, too!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Other way around for me (5.00 / 1) (#128)
by tdismukes on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 12:24:45 PM EST

I've never actually studied speed reading, however my natural method of reading corresponds about 90% to the methods advocated above, and my reading speed reflects that. When I'm reading fiction I just blast through it full speed as the story unfolds in my brain. Slowing it down just makes me impatient to find what happens next. That's why I finish Stephen King novels in a single sitting. (The exceptions would be stylists like Thurber, who I just have to read out loud to enjoy the beautiful language - same as poetry.)

Non-fiction (of any serious depth) is the other way around. The limiting factor is not my reading speed but my comprehension speed. I can comprehend an exciting novel at 600 words per minute. I can't comprehend C++ algorithms at 600 words a minute. Therefore I slow the reading down to give myself time to think, adjust and digest.

[ Parent ]

personal feelings (3.50 / 2) (#24)
by gsabaco on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:27:16 AM EST

It is a good topic, and something that many people need help with. Personally, however, I read very quickly, and I don't do most of these things.

I don't worry about vocabulary, instead relying mostly on context when possible. (which is most of the time) I do still subvocalize, but only while reading dialog. It is meant to be vocalized after all, and you ruin the dialects used if you just read it as underlying concepts. I don't try to restrict my points of focus, but normally I only focus on the verbs. (or in the case where the verb is "to be" the subject, since it is more interesting :)

I only begain using a pointer recently, and only then when I am in a real hurry. It does help when you aren't so much trying to enjoy the text as to finish it. The thing that is odd for me here is that I do it the opposite way suggested, move right, down, left, down, trying to get a full paragraph each time I move right or left, depending on the length of the paragraph of course. I find it doesn't matter so much whether you read right-left or left-right, since you are trusting most of the actual reading to your unconcious either way.

Of course, I'm not forced to read non-fiction any more, and mostly when I do I have no plan to make notes on it or study for any kind of test. That's because I'm not in college any more. I still read trade journals and such, and non-fiction just because I'm interested, but never anything that I would need to remember exact details from later. (I can always go look it up again if I need it.)

Notes on Speed Reading (4.85 / 14) (#27)
by snowlion on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:14:19 AM EST

This comment describes the sensation of speed reading, what I believe is good text for speed reading, my thoughts on the process of converting words into images and how it affects our experience of the text, and how speed reading fits in to converting text into wisdom.

The Sensation of Speed Reading

If you haven't done it, it's similar to:
 * Playing the piano and reading ahead a few bars.
 * Playing DDR and recognizing upcoming patterns.
 * Driving and figuring out what to pay attention to.

Good text to Speed Read

Web pages, news articles, trash fantasy, and technical guides are good targets for speed reading. In all cases, little is demanded from the reader, and the reader is generally expected to understand the form. Common patterns arise frequently, and little attention needs to be paid to them.

I refuse to speed read anything that is well written or that invokes thought.

Converting Words into Images

As we fall into dream, our mental vocalization slips into images, and we find ourselves immersed in experiences. Somehow our brain turns symbols into experiences and back again.

When you speed read, you are hardly vocalizing, and without the vocalizating, without the stream of symbols, I (without much confidence) think the stream of experiences never come. My strongest experiences of being immersed in the story come when I am vocalizing the text in my mind, and the vocalization stops and turns into experience. I have caught my eyes moving slowly over spoken text, at the rate that the experience of speaking occured in my mind, and I have caught my eyes galloping over text when it matched the experience in my mind as well. It is difficult to judge times, because the experience is subjective.

If I want to experience a text, I cannot speed read it. I am completely unaware of the pace my eyes move over the text at while I am experiencing something. To shift attention in that direction fractures the experience.

Information to Knowledge, Knowledge to Wisdom

Speed reading helps convert information into shallow knowledge, but it doesn't grant wisdom.

Text is information. When we speed read some text and understand what we are reading, we turn that information into shallow knowledge. We can deepen that knowledge by applying it with some play or work.

When we integrate that knowledge with the rest of our knowledge, and bring it into our life, that knowledge becomes part of a body of wisdom. Every step of the way from information to wisdom is a step of integration.

--
Map Your Thoughts

Sight-reading (4.33 / 3) (#112)
by phliar on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 12:02:15 AM EST

The Sensation of Speed Reading
...
Playing the piano and reading ahead a few bars.
(Any instrument.) Reading this comment I had a profound sense of "exactly!!!"

This ability is significant enough that there's a phrase for it -- "sight reading." In my own adventures with the trumpet, I'm just getting to the point where I can sight-read and it is just astounding how much more fun it is to play now. It's so much easier to "get" the music! It also made me appreciate the people who have a hard time reading. (I used to be surprised at people who didn't like to read.)

When you speed read, you are hardly vocalizing, and without the vocalizating, without the stream of symbols, I (without much confidence) think the stream of experiences never come. My strongest experiences of being immersed in the story come when I am vocalizing the text in my mind, and the vocalization stops and turns into experience.
Interesting. Not about the speed reading (which I'm really not interested in) but that you feel lack of vocalization limits the stream of experience.

My own feeling about the way I read prose is that the sound of a word or phrase is dissociated from the meaning. The recognition of glyphs, the parsing of sentences and the assignment of meanings to words is done unconsciously at a very low level, leaving what I think of as "me" to only pay attention to the meaning (which for me is a series of connections to images of memories).

I think about reading music the same way -- I'm training my visual and cognitive systems to recognise and process larger units of the mass of notation in front of me, leaving me to think about phrasing and feeling. This training also involves figuring out which parts are less important and can be dropped if the workload is too high, and which parts are key.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Other trick : The Aim (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by Rapiere on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:06:05 AM EST

One of the first thing to think about when willing to read faster is "the aim". You should have an idea of what you would like to get from an article, magazine, book... Hence, having this aim in mind, you will be able to adapt your speed to what is really important to yourself, take time to memorize it, then read at full speed.

There's no "good" speed, there's a speed that suits your goals. This seems obvious, but it isn't, at least for myself.

Three things (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by auraslip on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 04:20:38 AM EST

First; I've been doing this for a year or so, it just came to me over time. It's gotten to the point where I have to mentally slow myself down when reading hard to understand things. I speed read with out even thinking about.

Second; I recently started (tried) to read Kants critique of pre reason. I find because I speed read, that it is VERY hard for me to understand what he is saying becuase I read the words with out comprehension. Maybe Kant could have benifited from a word proccesor. Stupid philosopers....philospifyzing all wordy and such.

Third; In David Brins book "startide rising" The characters reads a book like this: He first puts himself in a meditative trance (he is able to train himself to do this through bio-feedback machines, hey it's the future), he then reads through the whole book(s) at a very fast rate so he knows everything in the book subconciously. When he has more time he then reads through the book(s) the normal way.  

124

Re: The Decline (1.00 / 12) (#34)
by MickLinux on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:37:39 AM EST

I am responding to your comment "The Decline" under my story "America the Beautiful".  I am responding here, because I want others to be free to mark that post zero, and take it away.

I will not do that myself, because I think that that job is for others to do.

However, as far as I can tell, your comment was SPAM.  I read it for content, and could not discern any.  It makes me wonder if you just copied a whole bunch of song lyrics, and pasted them, and used it to try to annoy people.

If you disliked my post, you can always wait till I bring it up for voting, and then vote it down.  If others agree, the post will eventually go away.

But before you do that, you should look at other comments of mine.  I do not blind myself to America's flaws -- and indeed, have in the past felt great emotional pain on the 4th, because the flaws were so apparent.  But on this day, I do not want to simply lash out at others.  Rather, I want to try to build our country in a way that I think is good.  Please consider that fact when you decide how to vote.

But please don't just spam.  It really is offensive.

 

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

Ah, found the post (none / 0) (#37)
by Mister Proper on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 07:27:20 AM EST

The post he's talking about is here. I've modded it zero but it's still visible at the moment.

I'm modding you to zero, because you're feeding the troll. Also auraslip seems to have a well-maintained diary that you can comment on, plus s/he has an e-mail address listed. There's no need for such an attack here.

[ Parent ]

I'm sorry (none / 0) (#94)
by auraslip on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:55:02 PM EST

The Decline is a 20 minute song by the band NOFX. I thought the lyrics were pretaint (sp).
 I Forgot to set it to auto format so it was really ugly looking, sorry about that.
 If you think lyrics to a song is spam...then well....I think you story is spam so THERE! hah...
I showed you!

[ Parent ]
If that happens again... (none / 0) (#123)
by MickLinux on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 08:22:26 AM EST

If that happens again, and your post loses all meaning because the formatting is gone (it did in this case... I really tried to glean some meaning and could not), then it does qualify as spam, even if you had not intended it that way.

The proper thing to do in such a case is to repost with "plain text" selected, and then send an email to help@kuro5hin.org asking them to remove the original messed-up post.

They usually do, quite quickly.

Regardless of that, your super-long song, without any added meaning or tie-in would quite possibly still be spam.  

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

my tips (4.50 / 6) (#31)
by Phantros on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:04:26 AM EST

I appreciate the thought of wanting to improve reading efficiency and speed, but for me at least, most of these tips would hinder me more than help me. Number 1 is a good one though. My own tips would be:

1. Do not try to speed read. Unless it's very simple reading matter, you'll seriously hamper your comprehension. It's like trying to keep every third note from a song and still get a good tune out of it. It's a form of lossy compression. ;)

2. Eliminate all environmental distractions. This means no music, no tv, no talking people. Contrary to appearances, the human brain does not multitask well unless the tasks are very simple ones.

3. Read things that you are actually interested in reading. If your interest wanes in your current book, switch to another for a bit, as a break. It's an uphill battle once it's more of a chore than an enjoyment. For this reason I keep both a fiction and a non-fiction book handy.

4. Don't read when tired. Some people read themselves to sleep, which I've never understood. If you are tired you'll end up rereading passages because you're too distracted to take in the meaning.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

reading myself to sleep (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by janra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:12:52 PM EST

I've read myself to sleep quite a few times. Sometimes even on purpose.

The times that I did it by accident I was just reading, then next thing I knew it was later, and the book was on the floor. :-)

The main reason I do something like that on purpose is if I can't get to sleep. Usually, this is because my brain is spinning around madly, thinking about everything and nothing, and I can't calm down. Reading gets me to focus on one thing, and does a great job of calming my mind when it's spinning like that. Since my mind usually only spins around madly when I'm over-tired but can't sleep, once it's focused and a little calmer, I fall asleep pretty quick. I read myself right to sleep rather than reading for a while then going to sleep because if I put the book down and turn out the light, my mind starts spinning again.

And yes, I do end up rereading passages, sometimes entire pages, but that's ok. In this case, the reading is a means to calming my mind down, not entertainment. (No matter how good I think the book is. In fact, the better the book, the more effective it is, because it focuses my mind better.)

If I'm reading for entertainment, I try to avoid reading when I'm tired, though.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
interesting (none / 0) (#129)
by tps12 on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 03:24:45 PM EST

It's so interesting to read about how other people's brains work. I just wanted to comment on your tips and provide another point of view.

I have never speed read, but I do read fairly quickly. When I first heard about subvocalization, I was surprised, because I've never done that. Maybe it is because I learned to read on my own, rather than through "phonics," or maybe I am a "visual thinker."

  1. I find that when I am enjoying a written work, I tend to read faster.
  2. As an introvert, I have never had a problem with distractions. I used to do homework in front of the TV, and throughout college I would listen to music, have the TV on, have people hanging out in my room, or be playing Nintendo all while doing homework or reading. I also know people who are the exact opposite.
  3. A no-brainer. I often am reading a small pile of books at the same time.
  4. I will read when tired or when alert. I don't mind going back a few pages the next day if I am too tired to absorb anything.


[ Parent ]
Speed Reading (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by dazk on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:24:23 AM EST

Hi, I've been using speed reading techniques for quite some time now. I really was impressed that even after a very short time of practising I could read more than twice as fast remembering and understanding about the same. One thing I do now with normal text (no formulas etc.) is to read one line from left to right and the next from right to left and so on. One would think that there is no chance you understand the text you're reading doing this but it really is amazing what the brain can do. You actually get it. That is because the visual impressions stay in a sort of buffer to be evaluated by the brain. The brain is perfectly capable of reordering those impressions even if they pour in the wrong way round once it's trained. I read in a book about speed reading that there are people that can read multiple lines even whole paragraphs at once after longer training. From my experience I can say that I understand a text better after 2 speed reading passes than I did before with a single pass. But the time needed for two speed reading passes is still significantly shorter than the time I needed for one pass before using speed reading techniques. Of course there are times when I read slowly but it really helps working through large quantities of information and I really thing that if one never tried it, there is no way to believe that it actually works. I think, as I said before, it's one area where you can really appreciate how amazing the human brain is.
----- Copy kills music! Naaah! Greedyness kills Brain! Counter: Bought 17CDs this year because I found tracks of an album on fileshare and wanted it all.
Alternating directions (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by TheSleeper on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:32:52 PM EST

One thing I do now with normal text (no formulas etc.) is to read one line from left to right and the next from right to left and so on.

Interesting idea. I know that one of the things that slows down my reading is scanning from the end of one line to the start of another. I've contemplated the idea of books that reverse the word order on every other line, in order to facilitate this, but I've never thought of trying to simply read normally-printed text this way.



[ Parent ]
Boustrophedon (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by pin0cchio on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:21:27 PM EST

I've contemplated the idea of books that reverse the word order on every other line

Oh, you mean like an ox pulls a plow? That's called boustrophedon. Greek used to be written that way before they switched to consistent left-to-right.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Woody Allen (4.33 / 6) (#33)
by kaemaril on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:32:47 AM EST

I am reminded of a quote I once read from Woody Allen. As far as I can remember it, it went something like this:

I once learnt to speed-read, and read War and Peace in a single afternoon...
It's about Russia.


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


Speed reading isn't "Evil" (4.50 / 4) (#48)
by thadk on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:42:04 AM EST

Despite what many people are wrongly arguing here, all speed reading does not detract from the content. Scan-reading OTOH, which is sometimes deceivingly named 'speed-reading' where you skip words to gain speed, does hurt reading IMO. All speed-reading does is streamline the way you get information from written words. Even if you don't know it chances are you're not sub-vocalizing everything you read and using your peripheral vision (TRY READING THIS SENTENCE; YOU CANT READ IT AS QUICKLY AS NORMAL BECAUSE YOU ALREADY ONLY SCAN THE TOPS OF THE LETTERS AS YOU READ--CAPITALS MAKE THAT HARDER). You don't need to work at full pace and you don't lose the capability to go back to sub-vocalized reading when you build up your reading speed. I still read many things in normal mode but whenever I need it and feel like pushing myself a little, I can boost reading up and take in more. I posted a link to an excellent guide below, like I said, I was very impressed. If you spend 10 minutes a day drilling with it and give it a week I promise you will be capable of going faster whenever you want to. The technique used in the guide quickly eliminates sub-vocalization and while earlier attempts to get rid of it on my own were useless this worked well. I liked the author's tennis/gym argument which give a good analogy for what I'm trying to say.

[ Parent ]
Uh... (none / 0) (#126)
by kaemaril on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 09:15:52 AM EST

Uh, yeah. Well, thanks for that. Not that I ever said it was evil, or anything...


Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?


[ Parent ]
Resources? (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by anylulu on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:43:57 AM EST

Could you point the way to any further speed reading resources?
-- peace, love and anylulu http://www.anylulu.com
Try this (none / 0) (#50)
by thadk on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:48:57 AM EST

As I mentioned below there is a guide I found very helpful here.

[ Parent ]
Thank you (none / 0) (#147)
by anylulu on Wed Jul 17, 2002 at 06:51:38 AM EST


-- peace, love and anylulu http://www.anylulu.com
[ Parent ]
Sub-vocalisation (4.50 / 8) (#36)
by jig on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 06:07:26 AM EST

Eliminating sub-vocalisation is not always a good idea. Much of good literature is good not just because of the concepts and ideas found within the words, but also because of the rhythm and flow of the words themselves, and that flow can only be truly experienced with sub-vocalisation.

A good experiment to establish this might be to try and speed-read the following poem by Lewis Carroll without sub-vocalisation, and see what you get out of it afterwards.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.



-----
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

Poetry (none / 0) (#40)
by Razitshakra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:00:21 AM EST

Reading without sub-vocalization is my default mode. Maybe that's why poetry does nothing for me.

--
Lets ride / You and I / In the midnight ambulance
- The Northern Territories
[ Parent ]
yeah... I just realized that myself... (n/t) (none / 0) (#134)
by Captain Segfault on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 03:35:57 AM EST



[ Parent ]
I couldn't agree more (4.50 / 2) (#64)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:42:02 PM EST

Also, plays should be read aloud. Homer's works, Shakespeare's writings, Derrida's plays: all should be performed out loud. If you feel like it, assign voices to the characters.

One of my best reading experiences was when a group of friends and I read The Odyssey out loud, starting at sunset. We read all through the night, and finished just about as the sun came up. That's how the Greeks experienced Homer, and "it's the only way to fly".

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

"Speed reading" poetry bad,not sub vocal (4.00 / 1) (#125)
by oojah on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 09:02:25 AM EST

Hi,

You and other people replying to you are correct, speed reading this does nothing for poems. However, I do not vocalise or subvocalise when I read but I really don't feel that I miss out in that respect. I can enjoy the rythm and "taste" the words just as much speaking in my mind as I do speaking them aloud.

This could, of course, be because I am acquainted with this particular piece of verse and have spoken it aloud before.

Roger

[ Parent ]

umm... (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by Captain Segfault on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 03:37:39 AM EST

unless I'm misunderstanding something, reading the words in your head falls under what the author calls subvocalization.

[ Parent ]
Ooops (none / 0) (#146)
by oojah on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 06:15:00 AM EST

Ah yes, you are correct. My misunderstanding of what subvocalising is.


[ Parent ]
Be careful which dictionary you choose. (3.33 / 3) (#39)
by rasilon on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 07:40:35 AM EST

Dictionaries often have politics.  It is a good idea to check the criteria used for a words inclusion, and for a definitions inclusion.  M-W is perhaps the most liberal of the dictionaries and will often list spellings and meanings that are rejected by others.  Whilst this means that they are often the first to catalogue slang and derived terms, one can be left wondering which orifice they dragged some of their items out of.  Indeed, I recall (but can't be botherd finding a cite for) that one of Webster's goals was to differentiate US and UK english.

IIRC, The OED doesn't seek to be a complete listing of the english language, but rather to list the spelling and meaning of every word published by the Oxford University Press.  This means that you get a very authoritative source, but it takes several decades for slang and derivations to make it in.

I would consider M-W to be a dictionary of common usage in the US, and the OED to be a dictionary of correct usage in the UK, there are many dictionaries inbetween, and indeed more extreme.  Which one is best for your purpose depends very much on your purpose, and I would reccomend that you keep several to hand and know the strengths and weaknesses of both.

OED not based solely on OUP publications (5.00 / 5) (#49)
by fcw on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:47:54 AM EST

(Note: I do not speak for the OED editorial team or the OUP, but I am professionally acquainted with the current editor and some of his staff, having been a technical consultant to the OUP over several years for the online version of the dictionary.)

I believe the comment about the Oxford English Dictionary seeking only to define those words used by the Oxford University Press's other publications is incorrect.

I have never seen any evidence that the OED editorial team only consider including words if they're in another OUP publication. The OED repeatedly cites sources that have never been published by the OUP, such as cookery books, American newspapers and movie scripts.

Furthermore, through its reading programme, the OED editorial team actively solicit contributions from anyone in the world with information on the use of English. Such contributions have always been the basis for the dictionary's research, and this process has given rise to at least one book.

In some senses, it can be regarded as an open-source project, since anyone can contribute, and all the material that's accepted by the researchers and editors is available to all readers. I know that they're even trying to find ways of citing electronic communications, although they're concerned that the sources continue to be available for future researchers to read.

The Oxford English Dictionary isn't first and foremost an up-to-date dictionary of spelling and definitions simply because it is primarily aimed at establishing a durable history of the language and its development, for the purposes of scholarly research. This is why it is currently twenty volumes plus supplements, and why there have been only two editions in over a hundred years, with the third due in 2010.

Because of the time it takes to research and catalogue language use, the OED seems inherently slow-moving; this should not be seen as a consequence of waiting to see what the OUP publishes. Oxford regularly publishes other smaller dictionaries aimed at people who just want to know what a word means today, as opposed to what it has meant over the last thousand years, and these are at least as up-to-date as any other dictionaries I have found.

More information on the OED, including its history, the reading programmer and current appeals for information, is available at www.oed.com.



[ Parent ]
I stand corrected [n/t] (none / 0) (#51)
by rasilon on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:58:30 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Slow down, don't speed up (4.37 / 8) (#41)
by damon on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:04:04 AM EST

A great cause of negative stress and disharmony in the modern world is caused by people doing too much in too little time. It leads to anger, frustration, insensitivity, and damages the body. It's much better to give your complete focus to something and do it properly. Your mind will respond to the challenge admirably if your will is strong. Even unpleasant tasks will seem better if you give them your complete attention.

So to reading: do it properly, give it your full focus, and engage the material. Sometimes you can do it faster with some materials than others, but whatever the case, give yourself the time to ponder and reflect. That is what your intellect and your concentration is for.

Furthermore, if you exercise your will and concentrate, there is a strong chance your mind will naturally not vocalize the words -- it will be focused on the meaning naturally.

I strongly agree with the above poster about not playing music and / or watching TV at the same time, and so forth.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com

semi-agree (4.00 / 1) (#107)
by martingale on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:09:07 PM EST

I agree with you on this:
So to reading: do it properly, give it your full focus, and engage the material.
However, that is not a reason to treat every type of reading material equally. Some things are deep and important while others are not, and recognizing the one and the other before you invest heavily into reading either is a skill worth having. I interpret Cant Say's story as an exhortation to select carefully what you invest time in rather than jump right in.

For example, when I research a topic, it is crucial to distinguish important journal articles from unimportant but equally long and time consuming journal articles. The same holds for books. There is no excuse for wasting your intellectual capacity and concentration on works which deal with minor variations or dead ends, when more fruitful works are available.

As another example, if you read for pleasure, there is no reason to finish a book you started which for whatever reason you didn't enjoy after a chapter or two. The chance that you will have enjoyed it after reading it fully is very small.

Furthermore, if you exercise your will and concentrate, there is a strong chance your mind will naturally not vocalize the words -- it will be focused on the meaning naturally.
I don't agree. I subvocalize, but also often concentrate fiercely when reading (I am quite oblivious to external sounds, people talking, music). I'd love to not vocalize, but like any skill, without training it is not going to happen naturally.

[ Parent ]
I have your article so fast (3.33 / 6) (#42)
by mami on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:16:07 AM EST

that the meaning slipped my conscience and that's no fun.

Do I regret it? No, because if it were something that would convince me, I would never have read speedily over it to begin with.

Speed reading is for people who read, because they *have* to read something and not because they *love* to read *that something*.

How someone can suggest to speed up the pleasure to read something that gives him the great "Aha, oh how true, oh yes, that's what it is" thought experience, is beyond me.

The great thing about reading it that you read, reread, think, rethink, forethink, read in between, ponder about it, get in a discussion about it etc. as much as you want and noone can take that time you spent on it away from you.

The last beacon of freedom. How could you give it up and bow in front of Mr. "Who wants to make a competition out of reading".

Who wants you to speed read? Must be your boss.

 

bah! (3.50 / 2) (#63)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:38:25 PM EST

"Speed reading is for people who read, because they have to read something and not because they love to read that something."

Look, this article had a specific audience in mind: either people that "quake in fear and end up reading nothing at all" or people that "simply become bored and cannot engage actively with the text". I fell into the second category. Reading quickly has increased my love of reading ten-fold. Come down of your high horse.

"How someone can suggest to speed up the pleasure to read something that gives him the great 'Aha, oh how true, oh yes, that's what it is' thought experience, is beyond me. "

It's quite obvious why someone would speed up the process: to experience more "Aha!" moments! Furthermore, I make it quite clear that reading 'deep' works necessarily slows down reading speed, so that while one interacts with deep philosophy, one must actively reason, often setting the book aside to meditate on a certain passage to examine its truth or falsity.

"The great thing about reading it that you read, reread, think, rethink, forethink [sic], read in between, ponder about it, get in a discussion about it etc. as much as you want and noone [sic] can take that time you spent on it away from you."

No, but if you can read a bit faster, you can use the time you do have to "read, reread, think, [and] rethink" more texts!

"The last beacon of freedom. How could you give it up and bow in front of Mr. 'Who wants to make a competition out of reading'."

First, reading is not the last beacon of freedom. If you think that, you're already a slave. Go out an shoot someone. You're free to do so, I promise. Any rational (non-physical law breaking) human action is free as long as one is not bound to a certain locale or thought pattern (i.e. brainwashed, although some people argue that a brainwashed person has freedom of action as well - I simply disagree). Second, I hardly turn this into a competition. I don't suggest reading eighteen million words per minute. I merely suggest one should read more so that you can enjoy more.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

Who rides the high horse here? (2.50 / 2) (#71)
by mami on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:31:58 PM EST

Come down of your high horse.

It's quite obvious why someone would speed up the process: to experience more "Aha!" moments! Furthermore, I make it quite clear that reading 'deep' works necessarily slows down reading speed, so that while one interacts with deep philosophy, one must actively reason, often setting the book aside to meditate on a certain passage to examine its truth or falsity.

I just think that what you call reading 'deep' is what is pleasurable and for me it works only on my own speed. That's all what I meant to say. I don't see why that means I am on a high horse. Seems to me that claiming to grasp and get a lot of "Aha" experiences while reading at the speed of light is pretty "high horsish" in itself.

Second, I hardly turn this into a competition. I don't suggest reading eighteen million words per minute. I merely suggest one should read more so that you can enjoy more.

I don't know who invented speed reading, but I think it was someone, who wanted businesses and organizations to profit from people, who can read and grasp issues more quickly, not for their own enjoyment but for the sake of competition to gain financial profit out of it.

Go out an shoot someone. You're free to do so, I promise.

I don't want that freedom get assigned from you to me as a right. Thank you very much. If I really wanted or needed the freedom to kill someone out of self-defense, I would just take that freedom as people have done since their existence disregarding the laws (be it just or unjust laws - which are always a matter in the eye of the beholder).

Basically that's what all people do, who go out to kill, don't you think? Why else would you talk about a "war", which basically means that one side takes the freedom to kill without regards to the laws prohibiting it and another side takes the freedom to try to stop them from killing by killing them as well.

We don't need the freedom to have a right to kill. We do need the freedom to determine which laws we want to have and consider as just and the power and freedom to change the laws so that they reflect our values. After that has been done, we need the protection of those agreed upon laws from people with weapons, who like to disregard them (because they think they can due to their weapon's might), because they didn't accept a democratic majority vote that put a set of laws in the books.



[ Parent ]

Oh dear me (3.66 / 3) (#73)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:01:48 PM EST

"I just think that what you call reading 'deep' is what is pleasurable and for me it works only on my own speed."

I never talk about reading 'deep' into the text, however I do mention reading texts that are 'deep'. Sorry to hurt anybody's feelings, but Dostoevsky is on a different level than is Kundera, and Kundera is on a different level than Grisham. When you read texts that require quite a bit from the reader, you necessarily slow down.

"Seems to me that claiming to grasp and get a lot of 'Aha' experiences while reading at the speed of light is pretty `high horsish [sic]' in itself."

No, being on a high horse does not mean I'm good at something. Rather, it means someone thinks there's only one way to be good at it, without justification for thinking it to be the case. I totally recognize and recommend adaptive reading. You, however, make blanket generalizations about people's motivation without possibly knowing weather or not it's true. Phrases like, "Speed reading [sic] is for people who read, because they have to read something and not because they love to read that something," suggest you're a tad holier-than-thou when it comes to your approach. You assert with no evidence that I'm somehow turning reading into a race. Don't be so close-minded.

"I don't know who invented speed reading..."

Agreed, you don't know. So how can you suggest their motivation? Furthermore, my motivation for reading quickly is not necessarily their motivation; so to indict me for their actions is uncalled for (and fallacious).

"I don't want that freedom get assigned from you to me as a right."

I have no idea what you're saying here.

"Thank you very much."

You're welcome, although I'm still not sure for what.

I think I'd understand your discussion of freedom a little better if I could understand you. I can't even tell what your gist is. However, I think you're confusing freedom of rational action with freedom from consequences. You're free to do almost anything you want to: fly a plane into a building, exterminate an entire culture of people, write incoherently (as I often do), and listen to Backstreet Boys. Reading is simply not the last bastion of freedom, casting her pale light upon the huddled masses. You can take any rational (non-law-of-nature breaking) action you wish to, and short of physical detainment, nobody can stop you.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

ok, you beat me and (2.00 / 1) (#77)
by mami on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:31:09 PM EST

I continue speed reading your comments. :-)

May be I am in a bad mood. I have often the feeling the only way not to get into troubles is not to talk at all and go on thinking and reading what I want.

May be I do it one day... :-)

[ Parent ]

Another One (3.25 / 4) (#43)
by yooden on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:20:57 AM EST

[B]ecause people think at roughly five hundred words per minute, but only read at roughly two hundred and fifty words per minute, they simply become bored and cannot engage actively with the text.

Let me rephrase: I can understand the text better if I read so fast that I have no time thinking about it.

This makes no sense.

If you speed-read and indeed manage to understand the text completely, you still have no brain cycles left to make connections to other parts of the text and things beyond the text. Granted, you could take a break every few pages, but that would defeat the purpose.

I read as fast as I can understand a text, ie. I could read faster, but not understand faster. I notice this when I read a especially thrilling book, accelerate and have to re-read passages. (When I read Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky, I actually got angry at the damn book because I couldn't read/understand as fast as I wanted to.)

This would only be different if you'd read in an ineffective way, say the subvocalizing you mentioned or breaking the flow of reading by regularly checking a dictionary you de-mentioned.


Nice new term... (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by thewookie on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:38:06 AM EST

'Brain Cycles'... LOL !

[ Parent ]
brain cycles (none / 0) (#67)
by janra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:56:32 PM EST

Good description. You have a maximum number of "cycles" available for processing in your brain, and if you use them all up on reading you have no time for thinking. If I were to measure "brain cycles" in terms of words per minute with the author's average of 500, I'd say that I'd rather read at 300 WPM and use the other 200 WPM for thinking about the text.

"Brain cycles" also does a good job of explaining why a noisy environment, and especially anything involving words - conversations, live and on TV, and song lyrics - slows you down a lot when you're reading or writing. Your brain is devoting a whole bunch of its cycles to processing this extraneous input, and thus has less left to use on your main focus. Some people can ignore or "tune out" outside noise, but most can't. I only can if I've had a chance to get really focused before the distraction starts.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
It'd be good if it weren't utter bunk (4.00 / 3) (#72)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:39:01 PM EST

Your brain does not have 'cycles' like the x86 has cycles. Your brain is massively parallel, with neurons firing in conjunction. Without getting into a mind/body debate, both sides can agree that many events take place in your mind/brain concurrently.

Reading quickly does not in any way lessen your ability to understand or comprehend or enjoy text, as long as you aren't skipping words or passages.

'Brain cycles' do not help explain why noisy environments are distracting. First, noisy environments do not equally distract everyone. Second, even those that are distracted aren't distracted to the same extent by the same input. For example, there's a lot of noise in your room right now: the hum of the lights, the whirr of your computer fan, conversation outside your room, and occasionally cars passing by on the street. Some people can simply handle more of that noise than can other people.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

could be bunk, could be good. (4.00 / 1) (#76)
by janra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:27:36 PM EST

Your brain does not have 'cycles' like the x86 has cycles. Your brain is massively parallel, with neurons firing in conjunction. Without getting into a mind/body debate, both sides can agree that many events take place in your mind/brain concurrently.

I never said it was like a computer, I was just drawing an (admittedly loose) analogy. There is a limit to how much one person can do at a given time; calling it cycles, whether they're serial, parallel, or blobby doesn't change that limit. It's a completely abstract and arbitrary way of showing that your brain has limits, and that spending "brain cycles" on one task reduces the "brain cycles" (or attention, if you prefer that term) available to dedicate to another task.

Reading quickly does not in any way lessen your ability to understand or comprehend or enjoy text

I think you have me mixed up with somebody else. I never said it lessened understanding, comprehension, or enjoyment. I said I prefer to read a bit slower, so I can think more about the text. Perhaps I just like to read more slowly than you; perhaps I like to spend more time thinking about the text. Perhaps I'm just not as easily distracted as you (in the article, you mentioned that not reading as fast as you thought left the part of your brain not used for reading wandering) or perhaps when my mind wanders while reading it wanders through the story world and not on other topics.

For example, there's a lot of noise in your room right now: the hum of the lights, the whirr of your computer fan, conversation outside your room, and occasionally cars passing by on the street. Some people can simply handle more of that noise than can other people.

Didn't I explicitly say that the most distracting noises involved language - the same thing you're processing when you're reading? "a noisy environment, and especially anything involving words - conversations, live and on TV, and song lyrics" ...yes, I did. And you're right, some people can handle more of those distractions than others, by "tuning it out" - basically not processing it - which I believe I also mentioned in my previous comment.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
More Utter Bunk (none / 0) (#121)
by yooden on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 05:55:07 AM EST

Your brain does not have 'cycles' like the x86 has cycles. Your brain is massively parallel, with neurons firing in conjunction. Without getting into a mind/body debate, both sides can agree that many events take place in your mind/brain concurrently.

You are taking the analogy much too far. I already knew that Intel has nothing to do with it.

However the brain is working, its capacity is limited. Once you reach this limit through raw reading, you have no resources left for thinking.
Note also that you proposed speed reading for the explicit purpose of using up brain capacity to avoid boredom while reading. I simply am not bored, but pondering the text.

Reading quickly does not in any way lessen your ability to understand or comprehend or enjoy text, as long as you aren't skipping words or passages.

Please repeat it once more, maybe I will believe it the third time I read it. Don't waste our time with arguments.


[ Parent ]
The speed of thought (none / 0) (#106)
by phliar on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:57:42 PM EST

I can understand the text better if I read so fast that I have no time thinking about it.
I find that understanding only comes later. The way I think about it is I will not appreciate a truly great insight when I first encounter it. I'll be reading along, and think "yeah, right!" and carry on. Later the thought kind of sneaks in the back door after my mind has reflected a bit on the implications.

I find that I actually don't read sequentially. My eye skips ahead to read a bit, then skips back. This happens unconsciously. Soemtimes I'll realise that I'm missing some information required to make sense of what I'm reading now; I go back and find it, then carry on. This seems to cement important ideas in, while allowing less significant things to stay at the surface.

If you speed-read and indeed manage to understand the text completely, you still have no brain cycles left to make connections to other parts of the text and things beyond the text.
Well, I refuse to generalise here and will simply say that my brain doesn't work this way. I usually have several tenuously connected chains of thought going on. Sometimes a particular thread (if I'm reading, perhaps -- or writing code) may be more significant than others, but they're still there. In any case, the connections that my mind needs to make cannot happen immediately; as I said earlier, the really cool connections take time and reflection.

I don't "speed read;" I never consciously tried to increase my reading speed. However I see that many people have a really hard time reading, and I think the pointers in the article are a really good description of how fast readers read. (Why should anyone want to read faster? If your reading speed is really low, a book of 500 pages, one you suspect has hard words in it, will always be intimidating to start.) As you read more your vocabulary increases, and more importantly you get a sense of etymology so you will have some idea of what a word hitherto unseen means. I think this might be another good drill -- when you look up a word in a dictionary, don't just read what it means; appreciate its origins and how it has been used in the past. (The OED is excellent for this, as they will have etymology, earliest citations etc. for words.)

I started reading at a very early age and still read an average of two hours a day -- a couple of books a week, usually non-fiction. In my mind ideas are very closely tied to the lexicographic form of the words representing them (in a couple of languages). So of course I don't subvocalize [good word -- thanks!] and my eye does skim over sentences not necessarily reading every word. All the while other threads of thought are running along, sometimes making interesting connections.

(Incidentally, I've found that every so often I stop reading for a few minutes although my eyes are still looking at the page. Thoughts run rampant; then peace breaks out and I resume reading. I don't know if other people do this.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

This is the point (none / 0) (#124)
by oojah on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 08:50:55 AM EST

This is just how I would describe myself as well - I read at the speed that I feel comfortable at. Just because it is faster than how many other people I know read doesn't mean that I take in less than they do.

(Incidentally, I've found that every so often I stop reading for a few minutes although my eyes are still looking at the page. Thoughts run rampant; then peace breaks out and I resume reading. I don't know if other people do this.)

This happens to me too. You get so wound up in the story that you're imagining/visualising things about it and stop reading. Trouble is, my eyes usually track the lines anyway and I don't realise until half a page later and have to find where I actually stopped paying attention.

Scary stuff :)

Roger

[ Parent ]
On Sub-vocalization (4.50 / 6) (#46)
by runlevel0 on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 09:03:09 AM EST

2. Eliminate Sub-Vocalization

Hum, this is sometimes dificult when you are reading in a language different from yours;
I, myself, are bilingual in both German and Spanish, this means that I talk, write and read
both languages in a native way (I'm able to read quite fast in both; must be, I'm translator ;) ). This means, that I already in my school days I learned not to vocalize while reading.
In fact our mind interpretes whole words, and even phrases as an unique image, stored in our memorie in the way the caching mechanism of web-browsers do. With vocalization, another part of our brain is used; the part related to verbal comunication.

So when we read, we use memorie, and when we read sub-vocalizing, we are using memorie and the verbal parts of our brain.

So the foreign languages, like English, sometimes introduces new words (this little dictionary applet in the KDE-bar is really nice!), or you automatically subvocalize, sometimes "savoring" the sound.
This can even be a way of getting used to the sounds if you don't have many opportunities to talk in English, but as I noticed on other people, subvocalizing is always a bad habit.

In this sense, I noticed that many people, not only "sub"-vocalizes, but does indeed _vocalize_ (pronouncing more or less quietly what they read). I noticed this normally related to educational or attentional deficit, sometimes in people which are close to functional analphabetism.

Returning to the foreign languages, I can remember that years ago, as I was studying English, I had to "spell" the words character by character, because I was unable to stat at first glance which word meaning the word had; for exapmle the term "nowhere" lead me to some mistakes, as I unerstood it as a joining of the terms "now" and "here", something completely opposed to the meaning of "no-where"!


Your mileage will definitely vary (4.12 / 8) (#47)
by cestmoi on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:10:58 AM EST

I took an Evelyn Woods Speed Reading course over 30 years ago and yes, it worked. I went from reading around 400 wpm to around 4000 wpm. Though I had become proficient at the skill, i.e., remembered what I read, understood it, etc., I lost the key reason I read - pleasure.

I kept the skill up for about 3-4 months thinking that it was an adjustment phase and things would be fine, just faster. Didn't happen. So I slowed back down to my pokey old 400 wpm and, for me, that's just fine. I enjoy reading and if I only get to .000001% instead of .00001% of what's out there well shucks, at least I enjoyed the journey.

On Sub-Vocalization (4.40 / 5) (#52)
by gauntlet on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:25:26 AM EST

I'm just throwing this out there, because I have no evidence other than anecdotal that it's true:

It seems to me that people that re-read things tend to sub-vocalize less and less as they do so. My evidence for this is that an author, having read his own work repeatedly, will not notice grammatical or typographical errors that if spoken would sound ridiculous.

Someone that has not read the work before, because they are sub-vocalizing, will "hear" the error, and therefore notice it.

Now I don't know whether or not sub-vocalizing reduces comprehension of the material read, or if it merely reduces speed. If it merely reduces speed, it would seem that re-reading something is counter-productive to getting the desired benefit. If it reduces comprehension, then it seems that the same argument could be made for taking longer to read it (by rereading) as can be made for reading it faster (by not sub-vocalizing the first time).

Into Canadian Politics?

for me, sub-vocalization aids comprehension (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Kablooie on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:25:37 PM EST

Speaking for myself, and with regard to comprehending lots of technical material, I've found that deliberately slowing down and sub-vocalizing each word really helps my comprehension. Bear in mind that this is technical material (design documents for cell-phone networks) and quite often the author's first language isn't english, so the structure is sometimes "backwards". Having said all that, I found the suggestions in this article very interesting and I plan on applying the eye-focus and sub-vocalizations suggestions. Cheers, Kablooie!!

[ Parent ]
reading aloud (3.00 / 2) (#68)
by janra on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:59:00 PM EST

It seems to me that people that re-read things tend to sub-vocalize less and less as they do so. My evidence for this is that an author, having read his own work repeatedly, will not notice grammatical or typographical errors that if spoken would sound ridiculous.

Exactly. That's why it's strongly recommended that an author slow down and read his work aloud once in a while - to help him catch errors like that.


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Long Ago (4.42 / 7) (#53)
by crowbraid on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:29:26 AM EST

I've read quickly for nearly 50 years. I taught myself to do it (no courses, books, etc), and for years considered the day a waste if I didn't read at least one sf/fantasy book during that time. It would take me in the vicinity of an hour to read a fiction book. Sometime, in the last few years, I discovered the pleasure of savoring the written word. No longer is it something to glance at, then leap on to the next paragraph. I now can appreciate the rhythm of the sentences, the careful way each word is crafted, the way that things and people are described. The conversations are read and sometimes reread just to pick up subtle clues and insights. In short, I've rediscovered the pleasures of the written word. I don't regret being able to read fast, nor do I condemn those that do. I'm just glad that I learned to 'slow down and smell the roses'.

An hour for what? (none / 0) (#122)
by Enocasiones on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 07:49:53 AM EST

[I] considered the day a waste if I didn't read at least one sf/fantasy book during that time.

It would take me in the vicinity of an hour to read a fiction book.

I´m just curious, because I also used to read a SF book a day. It took me about 4 hours or so for a medium sized one. That was enough to at least know now if I´ve read a given book or not.

In your case, assuming 30 minutes for a 200 pages book and one and a half hours for a 600 one, that´s 9 seconds per page. I´m impressed, I need between 30 and 60 seconds. Do you remember anything about any of the books? Or just those memorable ones?

[ Parent ]

What would be kinda interesting to learn. (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by xriso on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:40:40 AM EST

First, train yourself to use peripheral vision to read - don't really focus on the word, just see it. Then, train yourself to read three lines in one scan - the middle, above, and below. Combine this with a technique where you can then string the three lines together and comprehend them, and you've got yourself a really screwed up reading style. :-)
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Is redundancy that bad? (3.80 / 5) (#56)
by bodrius on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:13:35 PM EST

3. Limit Points of Fixation

Unfortunately, much of our reading is redundant. For example, the average reader will read, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..." with the following point of focus: was, best, times, was, worst, times, was, age, wisdom, was, age, foolishness." Unfortunately, this is incredibly redundant.


Have you ever thought that the author, at some point, spent a considerable amount of time specifically to make that phrase so "redundant"?
For some reason he or she believed that phrase expressed the meaning better than "it was the best and word age, and also foolish", which would have been shorter to read and more pleasing to you, apparently. This seems like "skimming by phrase", as opposed to traditional skimming by pages.
It all depends on what you want to read, I guess, but style does usually matter. Text is more than the semantics of the message, because the form usually contains its own message and corresponding semantics. Writing is trying not only to transmit an idea, but the sequence of thoughts and feelings that brought the author to the idea.
It has been my impression, after many a discussion with practising speed readers, that this is what they miss from the literature. They seem to be skimming through the books with remarkable discipline, but skimming still.
It works wonders with technical manuals or reference books which, when properly organized, should depend very little on context (and by context I mean both the semantic and the literary context of the work). But we already skim through these manuals, dealing with the specifics as needed.
The problem is that not all books are reference or technical manuals, and that does not only exclude fiction... Most non-fiction books, I would dare say, do not fit in those too categories.

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
I guess I wasn't clear (3.66 / 3) (#57)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:23:25 PM EST

But when I read the story again, I realize I was clear. Your peripheral vision takes in several words around your point of focus. ("Your peripheral vision takes in much more than two or three words.") If your eye rests on every second or third word, there is considerable overlap. ("So on the first reading stop, it picked up, 'It was the best...' Unfortunately, the second stop picked up, 'was the best of times...') So you read the words "was the best" twice, and on your third stop, you would have picked up "times" again, as well as "best of times". Incredibly inefficient.

So instead, you should focus your reading so that your peripheral vision does not overlap. ("Rather, one should read the phrase selecting: best, worst, age, age. With this simple adjustment, we reduced reading time by roughly two thirds.") So when you read the selection according to my suggestion, you read each word once and only once. You do not miss a single word of text.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

Fixation points (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by majubma on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 06:25:09 PM EST

This is actually an interesting area of research in psychophysics. Tracking people's eye movements while they read, it is generally found that people stop at key words (i.e. the words that provide the most information.) So a typical person might fixate at "It, best, times, worst, age, wisdom, foolishness." Subjects almost never stop their eyes on high-frequency words like "a," "an," "the," "was," "is," or so on.

Many people have the impression that they move their eyes smoothly and sequentially from left-to-right and top-to-bottom while reading, but this is simply not the case. Often people are observed to backtrack to importand words and even read sentences out-of-order.

There is a wealth of literature on the subject which can be found by for instance searching a publications database for "saccad* and reading." A good paper to start with is M. Starr and K. Rayner, "Eye movements during reading: some current controversies," TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 156-163, April 2001.


--Thaddeus Q. Thaddelonium, the most crookedest octopus lawyer in the West.
[ Parent ]

Fixation points (none / 0) (#115)
by bodrius on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 03:00:23 AM EST

I guess then I misunderstood what you meant by fixation points. majubma's post clarified a bit of that too.

Truth is, I had never noticed myself reading by overlapping segments, so I didn't get the concept at first. I thought you meant jumping over content with redundant semantics.

I wonder... is it really worth it? I mean, do the fixation points actually make a big difference in speed, considering one would have to engineer the way one's eye moves through the words?

Reading a sentence normally is already pretty fast in my experience; otherwise I would not have the illusion of fluid reading. Typically what would slow me down would be backtracking, or voluntary restraint in order to understand something better.

Paying attention to my eye movement and my points of fixation seems, at the beginning, distracting and slightly time-consuming. I assume that I would be training a reflex and it would be unconscious at some point... but how much time would that take, and how considerable are the benefits?

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

A speed reading program (3.50 / 2) (#61)
by orangecutter on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:33:42 PM EST

I wrote a speed reading program. It's in Java, with a narrow horizontal window that slowly scrolls the text at a speed of your choice. You have to read quickly, otherwise it disappears off the top.

I read classic fiction that I'm only kind of interested in, because I figure that if I fail to understand it, then it's no great loss. But if I do get it then I've got through Dickens, Austen, etc, which is always good. Also, the classics are out of copyright, so it's easy to get them on-line and load them into the program.

After two weeks (30 mins/day) I'm reading faster with the program, but not in daily life. It requires much concentration to skip through three/four words at a time. Perhaps I have to keep trying. However, I cannot eliminate sub-vocalisation, whatever I do (silence, or very load music). If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

On the up-side, I have brushed up my Java ;-)

--
Sort out your work problems by talking to others
http://www.workkitchen.org

I got rid of subvocalization by... (4.66 / 3) (#79)
by gte910h on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:40:16 PM EST

forcing myself to read just past were I can subvocalize. There is a certain speed at which your subvocalization drops off. The first time you hit it, you think that you are understanding anything. Keep reading at that speed, and you will realize that you do, you just thought subvocalization was understanding.

[ Parent ]
Dream Passages (4.28 / 7) (#62)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:35:51 PM EST

The other day as I was about to drive through an intersection, I thought at the last moment that I saw a stop sign in my peripheral vision. I flicked my eyes right, definitely saw a red octagon with white lettering on it, so I stopped. I then looked at the stop sign again, to see whether it was an all-way stop: instead, I saw that it was a red-orange balloon stuck in a tree.

It is easy to -- for a split second -- mis-identity an object or symbol because of contextual priming or something rattling around in your subconscious.

I wonder about this phenomenon with respect to speed-reading. Have any of you speed-readers gone back and re-read something at a contemplative pace, and found that in your speed-reading you had virtually invented a passage?


I thank your for your attention / je vous remercie de votre attention.
Opposing Views (4.90 / 11) (#65)
by Canar on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 12:48:29 PM EST

I've noticed a trend to slower reading, myself. I've read almost all my life. I can't remember a time when I couldn't read, having started at about two-and-a-half. Having read a lot of poor quality pseudo-teen novels when I was younger, I've grown habituated to just getting the jist of what's happening, and not really worrying about the little details. The general plot outlines of it all were enough for me at that time. I was reading all the key phrases, but it was just reading. It wasn't comprehension of what was going on. I whipped through a 350-page book in Grade 3 in about an hour, and could answer very intricate plot details, so long as they pertained to the main plot. At the time, the novels I read had no subplots.

But lately, I've been finding that my speed reading techniques are limiting my enjoyment of books. I've recently begun reading William Gibson. Any sort of speed reading of Gibson will leave you lost and confused. He intentionally leaves out details to make you work to understand what's going on. I absolutely love having to think through what's happening in the worlds he creates. I just read Neuromancer for the first time at my more leisurely pace. I actually understand what happened in the book now, more or less. The first time I didn't catch much of the implications of Neuromancer, nor how it related to Wintermute. The second speed-read, I sorta caught what was going on between them, but didn't understand how everyone else related to them. I've finally got a hold of it all in my mind. That and I'm beginning to catch all the wondrous drug references Gibson makes. He must have been quite the experimenter in his youth. Mentioning Ketamine in 1983? Wow.

I've also just started Pynchon's Vineland. If I read the book before slowing myself, I would have thought it boring. But I'm not. I'm catching all the nuance and subtlety of it, and really finding it refreshing.

On the other hand, I cannot read non-fiction straight through unless it's written in a fiction-styled manner, with a plot, and the like. I glance over the big bits, find the bits of it that I find interesting, then recurse into them. If I need some information from an earlier section, I'll jump to that one. Speed reading can't really help that, because the intention is to comprehend what's going on, not just memorize it. Speed reading straight through any sort of teaching-oriented non-fiction will never give positive results, namely because you won't be focused on learning, you'll be focused on reading through.

And now for the whole vocabulary issue: It matters. But the dictionary method is often not sufficient; dictionaries can't give you the connotations of a word very well. The only way to create a good vocabulary is to catch one word in many different situations, and the only way to catch that one word  is to focus on the entire text as you read it, not skim for the "important" words. When you find a new word, a dictionary may help, but more important is noting context and word associations. You can find denotation from context as often as you cannot find connotation from the dictionary. With the ketamine example above, I knew from context that it was a drug of some sort, but it wasn't until I actually ran into it in the party scene that I understood what it was about.

I also believe that a measure of sub-vocalization is required to appreciate some poetry. Other poetic styles are meant for print, though. It all depends on who you're reading, I guess. I've reached the speed at which my own bandwidth limitation is now due to comprehension. No increased reading speed will help me comprehend that which I read.

Dictionary... (4.50 / 2) (#87)
by Souhait on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 04:15:46 PM EST

I would always recommend using a dictionary for unknown words... I read quite a bit but never used a dictionary - I think I know plenty of vocabulary but when someone asks me what a word means I'm always left thinking, "It's kind of like this, or maybe sort of like that - it's definitely got a bad connotation, though, whatever it means." The true definitions of words help immensely, regardless of whether the definition can be somewhat determined in context.

[ Parent ]
Interesting... (none / 0) (#95)
by verb on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 06:03:01 PM EST

I had the same experience with Neuromancer -- I picked it up for the first time when I was 12 and had the same experience. I remembered it as a confusing but memorable pastiche of images and spalshes of verbal color... I missed key transitions, had trouble following the plot... and I was terribly impatient through many of the key points in the book.

About ten years later I picked it up again and re-read it -- I was blown away. It reminded me of some of the best scenes in The Usual Suspects, when a keen viewer will spot an important twist a good thirty seconds before it's revealed explicitly. I think the fact that I'd read a bit more philosophy also helped me appreciate the underlying 'Escape from self' theme.

The way Gibson plays with language in that book -- and the three sequels -- is amazing.

--the verb

[ Parent ]
Three Sequels? (none / 0) (#113)
by Canar on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 12:28:57 AM EST

I thought it was a trilogy: Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. There's his other universe, the one that contains Virtual Light, Idoru, and All Tomorrow's Parties, but I've never heard of a fourth in either series.

[ Parent ]
Doh... (none / 0) (#138)
by verb on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 10:18:49 PM EST

My bad. I was typing too quickly and was thinking of the three-book-series... thus the error.

I did love All Tomorrow's parties, though. Even moreso than some of his earlier stuff. The pattern-themes through it were fascinating.

--tv

[ Parent ]

-1 Ain't got no use for book learn'n (2.50 / 4) (#69)
by duxup on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:05:54 PM EST



mmm, waffles (5.00 / 2) (#120)
by martingale on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 04:23:26 AM EST

in the immortal words of Bill Hicks:
I was in Nashville, Tennesse last year. After the show, I went to a waffle house. I'm not proud of it, I was hungry. I'm alone, I'm eating, I'm reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me and says, "Hey, what you readin' for?" Is that like the weirdest fucking question you've ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading for. Well, goddamnit, you stumped me. Why do I read? Hmm...I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and the main one is so I don't end up being a fucking waffle waitress. But then, this trucker in the next booth gets up, stands over me and says, "Well...it looks like we got ourselves a reader." What the fuck is going on here? It's not like a walked into a Klan rally in a Boy George outfit, it's a BOOK!


[ Parent ]
Overrated (4.40 / 5) (#70)
by kaet on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:24:01 PM EST

I think that reading quickly is overrated.

If you think at 500 words per minute (a rather dubious measure in itself)  and read at 250 words per minute, then you are already reading too fast.

Many people I've talked to who read quickly miss a lot of the subtler points, interconnections and characterisations in the story because they read at such speed. Unless you're only reading potboilers or textbooks way beneath your level, then you're missing out.

I don't think you should measure the amount people read by the quantity of words traversed, but by the amount of knowledge they've gained in the process, their degree of engagement with the text.

In the same way that someone who has travelled around the world in a jet hasn't travelled as much as someone who spent the same amount of time exploring their own county on foot.


I agree (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by Annonymous on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:42:06 PM EST

I have a friend who has a habbit of reading slashdot posts over my shoulder while i'm browsing at uni and he always finishes each post before me but when i make a comment about something in the post (i.e. joke) i find he's often missed it and rereads the article and laughs.

He does technically read faster, but he misses a lot of the more subtle content.

Having said that the impression i got from the article was that speed reading would be used for things like textbooks and such. Books that are very blantant in what they're trying to convey. I mean who writes summaries at the start of each chapter in a fiction novel?

[ Parent ]
Saccades (4.33 / 3) (#74)
by adamrice on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:17:57 PM EST

Point 3, "limit points of fixation," strikes me as impossible to practice. The little leaps that our eyes take across a few words of text are called "saccades." I don't think we have conscious control over this behavior, and even if we do, the only way to know the "important" words to fixate on is to read the text in advance. I read pretty slowly, even though I am a translator. When I read, I often play around mentally with how something was structured, whether it could have been written better, etc.

You can't actually see saccades. (none / 0) (#78)
by gte910h on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:36:20 PM EST

You can feel saccades with your eyelids if someone shows you how, but they are totally filtered out by our visual system. The writer is talking about the amount of places you focus on to read each line. For big books and websites, it usually takes many focal stops to get an entire line. For standard paperbacks, you can easily get by with one stop a line.

[ Parent ]
I'd call them easily ignored (none / 0) (#88)
by MuglyWumple on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 04:36:37 PM EST

It is very easy to "see" the eye's saccades. Try it. I am often conscious of it and frequently direct it, for instance, when driving.

[ Parent ]
Reading slowly (3.77 / 9) (#75)
by richieb on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:19:18 PM EST

Actually, as several posters already pointed out, reading slowly is much better if the book is really good. Reading quickly is helpful for skimming through boring technical matter.

When I read "War and Peace", which is a really great book - one of my favorites, I often got comments like "Oh, I'd like to read it, but I don't have time". Now, if you don't have deadline to finish a book, how can you not have time? Who is rushing you? Are you really worried that you will enjoy yourself for too long?

Imagine what a reaction would be to an article "How to have sex quickly"...

...richie


It is a good day to code.

'slowly' and 'quickly' are relative (none / 0) (#81)
by remonsim on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:31:05 PM EST

you seem to be implying that it is impossible to improve one's speed while retaining an appreciation of what one is reading.  that is quite false.

reading and sex are not really comparable in this regard...i think nobody will agree that reading more quickly is undesirable (because sex should be slow???)

[ Parent ]

Enjoyment (5.00 / 3) (#93)
by richieb on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:43:50 PM EST

you seem to be implying that it is impossible to improve one's speed while retaining an appreciation of what one is reading. that is quite false.

I wasn't trying to imply that. It's more fundamental than appreciation. If you are enjoying doing something, why rush your way through it.

I've read many books that I liked a lot and rushed through them, because I wanted to find out what happens in the end. When I finished I was a bit sad, 'cause the experience was over.

...richie
It is a good day to code.
[ Parent ]

War&Peace (none / 0) (#91)
by Fantastic Lad on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:18:53 PM EST

Prince Andre was so very me at one time. . . What a wonderful book!

Which translation is your favorite?

-Fantastic Lad

[ Parent ]

War and Peace (none / 0) (#92)
by richieb on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:40:37 PM EST

Which translation is your favorite?

Well, I only read it once, and I don't remember with translation it was (I read the paperback Penguin edition). Which translation do you like?

I was thinking about reading it again.

...richie

P.S. I'd probably like a version that includes the translations of all the french (at least in the footnotes).
It is a good day to code.
[ Parent ]

Maybe I love words too much (3.90 / 10) (#80)
by kostya on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:16:08 PM EST

Being an English Lit major turned programmer, I must confess that this article just makes me let out one of those melancholy sighs. Speed reading technical manuals I guess might seem useful (although I'd like to see speed readers tackler Knuth's Art of Programming at lightspeed and see how much they get out of it before their heads explode). Still I doubt the actual usefulness--i.e. how much is actually learned or retained.

But to speed read fiction? WTH is wrong with you people? If you speed read fiction, just go rent the movie or something. Seriously. What's the point of blowing through a novel in an hour just to get the plot? The plot is like 5% of the experience.

Speed read Moby Dick? Are you mad? The language, the meandering--it's the true part of reading Moby Dick, the whole point! Only someone who doesn't "grok" literature and its purpose would suggest speed reading fiction and literature. Really. You don't get it. You are missing the whole point of reading literature in the first place.

But hey, don't let me stop you. Like the guy just sitting in the park enjoying the sunshine who watches speed walkers blow past him on their lunch breaks, I can't explain it to you. You'll have to figure this out on your own.

Of course, you just speed read everything I said and just picked out the parts that offend and missed the whole point. Go ahead. Reply. This explains so much K5 behavior <grin> It all makes sense to me now.



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
Good god (2.50 / 6) (#84)
by Cant Say on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 04:02:00 PM EST

This is really getting annoying. Not once do I advocate speed-reading. Seems Dr. Literature missed that. All I suggest is to eliminate sub-vocalizations and redundancies. Not once do I suggest abandoning sections of the text (except in the case of non-fiction).

Your condescending, "You haven't experienced it unless you spend 18 hours wandering the text and reading it in its original language while you walk down the same streets the author did," attitude is what turns people off. You analogy between reading and the park is faulty, because in reading it is entirely possible to read faster than you used to without missing any of the 'essential' qualities.

Good god, your post makes you look like a total prick: "WTH is wrong with you people? If you speed read [sic] fiction, just go rent the movie or something. Seriously. What's the point of blowing through a novel in an hour just to get the plot?"

What the hell is wrong with you? Not once does anyone suggest reading for just the plot. But if you can read Faust I in a couple hours, rather than a few days, so much the beter.

Further prick-ness: "Only someone who doesn't 'grok' literature and its purpose would suggest speed reading fiction and literature."

Only someone who's an intellectual wanker would think him or herself better than other people because the read differently. Seeing as how I'm in a classics program with thirteen other people, you can sure as hell bet I comprehend the good books at a level beyond what most people do. And I do it while I read quickly, as well! Don't be so haughty as to think your way is the only way.

-intellegite parvuli astutiam et insipientes animadvertite-

[ Parent ]

Actually, he gave you what you deserved to hear. (none / 0) (#102)
by Maniac_Dervish on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 09:31:06 PM EST

One of the flaws in your story was that it doesn't explain *why* you'd want to read more quickly, but merely how to do it.

Given that fact, I would also probably have assumed that you were missing the point of being able to read quickly. You didn't tell anybody what you really meant to say, so people were left to assume based on their own experience of people who promote "speed reading."

I have two degrees in English, if that matters to you.

--dervish

[ Parent ]

coincidence! (none / 0) (#109)
by martingale on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:27:00 PM EST

I have two degrees in English also, both of them are Science degrees though ;-)

[ Parent ]
Adressing your statements backwards (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by Cant Say on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 04:12:42 AM EST

"I have two degrees in English, if that matters to you."

Yes, it does matter. I think people who have worked hard to become experts in their field deserve the proper respect. For example, I think scientists often talk philosophy (i.e. Sagan's "The universe is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be."), a realm wholly outside their expertise. Also, scientists often talk about the philosophy of science, a field of study that people spend their whole lives attempting to understand. I think one of the problems of our society is that we do not grant respect to people that deserve it. Though I must add, I still question everything I read, even by experts in their field. However, I almost always try to accept the expert's opinion.

"One of the flaws in your story was that it doesn't explain why you'd want to read more quickly, but merely how to do it."

First, the article is a "how to" article: "How to Read Quickly Without Really Trying". It is not entitled: "How and Why to Read Quickly Without Really Trying". For example, an exercise bike or treadmill has instructions about how to exercise, but they don't tell you (in the instruction manual) why one should exercise.

Second, though, I do tell people why I wrote this how-to. 1) I don't want people to not read because they feel they can't read "enough". 2) I don't want people to not read because they are bored. Second, in post #9 and post #10 I ruminate further on the why. I always read all the comments before I post. I just realized that perhaps other people don't. Shame on them*.

"You didn't tell anybody what you really meant to say, so people were left to assume based on their own experience of people who promote 'speed reading.' [sic] "

First, I said exactly what I meant to say: you can read faster if you don't sub-vocalize and if you don't read redundantly. People attempted to give motivation where it didn't belong, adding more to the text than was actually there. If you've ever been in an honors high school English Literature class, you're familiar with the phenomenon. Second, their interpretations are, on the whole, faulty; even based on the text provided. Much of the analysis of objectors decries the danger of skipping text or 'reading too fast'. However, since I never advocate skipping text, reading 'for the plot', or reading 'too fast'. I simply suggest ways to read faster. Perhaps I should write a story on textual interpretation soon (or perhaps you would: I'm sure it would be much more insightful than mine**). Finally, I never advocate speed-reading. Not once. So drawing a comparison between speed-reading advocates and me is a faulty step of interpretation.

* I suggest reading all the comments because, on the whole, people are not (myself included) incredibly original. If you have a question or a comment, it's probably already been said. Rather than starting all over again again, read the thread's progression that is already in place. If you have something new to add to the end, do so. If not, be quiet. If there is no thread based on what you have to say, start a new one. Kundera is right, graphomania is a problem.

** I hope you don't think I'm being rude: I really would like to read a good story on textual analysis. It's a skill I only practice at a fair-to-middling level.


[ Parent ]

Settle down (none / 0) (#104)
by semantix on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 10:24:42 PM EST

It amazes me that you just got offended at the previous post.  Sure, the person said some pretty inflamatory things, but for some reason I just didn't find it offensive.

I don't think it was necessary to flame them back.  In fact, if it had been me, I would have explained to them patiently that we had a lot more in common than they might think.  It seemed clear from context that a simple misunderstanding had passed between you two.

The fact that you have flamed this person now makes me think less of your story.  I know this is not logical, nor fair, but it has happened none the less.

semantix

[ Parent ]

I'm sorry you think less (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by Cant Say on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 03:48:06 AM EST

I read this post after dealing with some other frustrating posts. Many people are trying to make my suggestions more than what they were. I never suggest skipping sections of fiction. I never suggest in the story once that you speed read. I never say most of the things people are being critical of me saying. Furthermore, I have two comments placed earlier addressing these objections. (1 2 ) Then I have two posts referencing the two previous posts (3 4 ). Then, just before I wrote this response, I was dealing with this post which claims that anyone who speed-reads merely reads because they have to, and not because they enjoy it (also asserting such absurdities as reading is the last bastion of freedom).

By the time I got to kostya's post, I felt like most of these issues had been already dealt with, so I normally wouldn't respond. However, their post reeked of smug self-importance. Perhaps I love reading too much to let such nonsense pass by. I think my indictment of the post is completely justified.

Furthermore, I think I'm much more forgiving. kostya asserts "You don't get it" without any justification. On the other hand, I only once make an absolute statement about kostya's motivation or apprehension (when I state kostya is an intellectual wanker, but note that I provide justification for my assessment, and I don't simply assert it). Note, for example, I never claim kostya is a prick, just that kostya comes across as one: a small distinction, but detail is important in textual analysis.

"In fact, if it had been me, I would have explained to them patiently that we had a lot more in common than they might think."

You're absolutely right. But the veneer of condescension was too think for me to attempt to cut through, and I felt I had already rationally discussed the issue, so anyone who at that point decided to post, must have felt my analysis inconsequential. I don't know that I would grant that it was a simple misunderstanding, when kostya attempts to interpret claims into my text which I never make.

But at the end of the day, you are right. I didn't need to rant. But it felt good. I'm sorry you think less of my post. You're right, though: it is not logical. I'm still disappointed I affected your perception adversely. Hopefully this post will explain some of my reaction, and adjust (even a little) your perception.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]

Wow, my bad (none / 0) (#119)
by Cant Say on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 04:19:08 AM EST

I didn't even realize the title could be misconstrued until I was scrolling through posts again. I should have entitled it "I'm sorry you think poorly of it" instead. As it stands, it may understood (with a cursory glance) to mean "I'm sorry you [semantix] think less". Rather, I meant it to read, "I'm sorry you think less of my article". I apologize.

"A quiet milquetoast who wears cardigan sweaters and enjoys billiard matches while sipping single-malt whiskey." --kitten
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I still disagree (none / 0) (#131)
by kostya on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 06:16:34 PM EST

Sorry if it came across as me disparaging your techniques. If they work, great. Really. But I still don't believe that blasting through fiction, with or without proper "faster reading tips", is a good thing to pursue. Sure, if you want to cram down a book so you know what it is about. But for enjoyment? For appreciation? No, I still just think that is "missing the point" of reading literature in the first place.

And maybe that's the problem--you are trying to help people learn how to just read faster. What I am referring to is the experience--not simply the act--of reading. You just can't rush that.

I'd agree that learning how to read better will help that experience--and in learning to read better you will probably learn to read faster. And many of your techniques would help with rader awareness and reading comprehension--as well as speed. But that doesn't mean you should blow through all literature at the fastest pace you can manage. I can read very quickly, but I have to try and keep my speed down so I can really get the full experience, the nuances, the beauty of the language itself.

I'd also be the first to agree that pulp fiction doesn't merit such care ;-)

I guess I'm just saying there is a simple and clean beauty to the experience of reading good literature, one that is lost when you don't take the time to mosey through the text or mull it over in your brain. If you don't see that or agree, fine. But again, I think you are missing the best part.

The self-righteous and intellectual smug prick



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
Is it really that bad? (none / 0) (#132)
by hans on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 08:45:46 PM EST

Sure making love for 4 hours is great, but would you turn down 10 minutes in the shower?

[ Parent ]
Appropriate quote (none / 0) (#145)
by hugues on Tue Jul 09, 2002 at 01:17:18 AM EST

I took a course in speed reading and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It's about Russia. -- Woody Allen

[ Parent ]
I think the point is to read as fast as you think (none / 0) (#148)
by bigsexyjoe on Fri Jul 19, 2002 at 01:28:08 AM EST

i think the point is to take care of the low level processes of reading as fast as you think, not to think about the material less. My written expression skills are poor so I'll use an example. You can comprehend speech faster than you can read, so wouldn't it be nice to speed your reading to the speed of speech? You could still comprehend the material. Also, if the mechanics of reading become easier then you can devote more thought to the material.

[ Parent ]
Alternate Suggestion (3.25 / 4) (#85)
by gauntlet on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 04:08:52 PM EST

Why aren't there any guides out there on how to sub-vocalize faster?

Into Canadian Politics?

A source for your statistic (4.00 / 2) (#101)
by sypher on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:35:17 PM EST

Or, because people think at roughly five hundred words per minute, but only read at roughly two hundred and fifty words per minute

If you have one handy, or explanation as to how this is measured 'roughly' would do.

You are familiar with the phrase A picture paints a thousand words anything on this?

Fiction Skip-reading/recognition is something else too.

Whereupon you realise the context and surrounding participles of the verb or connation in relation to a character or participant enough for your mind to jump the meaning and cut the sentence down to two or three words, useful for foreign import manuals.

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
some other tips (3.33 / 3) (#114)
by psycho tinman on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 01:21:49 AM EST

Although english isn't my native language, I find I read fairly fast in it for a couple of reasons..

As noted above, one reason is familiarity with the language.. but there are some other factors that I've noticed over the years as being conducive to speedier reading...

Firstly, its near impossible (at least for me), to switch from Gibbons to Knuth and then onto (perhaps) Cussler or Clancy and maintain the same speed.. It simply doesn't work. The current reading speed is dependent on what books I've been reading recently (the subject area) and also, the author.. (for example, reading a series by the same author, as I reread about 10 Wilbur Smiths on the trot last month, means that towards the end, your speed is really really high, but with no decrease in either comprehension or enjoyment). Its also somewhat dependent on the media (ebook or paper ;) as well as what frame of mind you're in, obviously..

I'd disagree with some others who've said that reading faster decreases comprehension and enjoyment. Most of the time, reading for me isn't a race against time. Certainly, there is no need to compete with anyone else. One exception to this might be because I used to get most of my books from a library (when I was small), and we were allowed one visit per day (with two books).. so, at that time, I remember that I wanted to read both books within a day, so I'd be able to change them over for two new ones the very next day :o)

Again, the objectives when reading fiction vs non-fiction tend to be vastly different.. For fiction, its not quite so important where the story heads, following the story line is much more important.. For text books or technical stuff, focused reading and summarization may mean the difference between reading the entire book to find a small piece of information (or just reading the area you want to read at the time)

just a few random thoughts.. fp at Kuro5hin, yay ;o) excuse the disjointed rambling :o)

Sublimation (5.00 / 8) (#130)
by MicroBerto on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 05:59:52 PM EST

Did anybody notice themselves trying to read this story more quickly than usual? I certainly did..

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
I did it also! (none / 0) (#140)
by Buenaventura Durruti on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 01:53:50 AM EST

Very interesting appoinmet, I'm pretty sure that almost everyone has did the same!! :D

[ Parent ]
questionable assumptions (none / 0) (#136)
by jajuka on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 04:12:32 PM EST

Firstly, your advice about using a dictionary is good, assuming one is coming across unfamiliar words. I don't believe you, or apparently most other people here, have ever bothered to look up subvocalization. You'd find something like this: To articulate or engage in articulation by moving the lips or other speech organs without making audible sounds, as in reading to oneself. By which I mean to point out, hearing words in one's head is not subvocalizing.

You also seem to ignore possible other means of thinking besides your own. For a fair number of people, myself included, hearing words in one's head is thinking. I'm sincerely curious as to how you experience thinking, as I can't begin to imagine thinking without words. Of course one's definition of thinking is relevant as well. I myself equate thinking to "reasoning", though of course some part of it, perhaps most, consists merely of statements to oneself. Visualization is a related, but separate process, a kind of reasoning with the imagination.

I'm also curious as to where you come up with these "word per minute" rates at which people think. One sees such figures mentioned now and then, but never any reference to a methodology used to determine them. A WPM figure can be easily arrived at for reading, but thinking seems much more difficult to measure.

Hearing words in one's head is still slower (none / 0) (#139)
by visigoth on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 01:38:20 AM EST

...whether it's technically "subvocalization" or not. I realize this 'cause I usually think by mentally articulating the words when I'm reading -- and I tend to have very good retention but could read far faster without this habit...

[ Parent ]
Why read fast at all? (5.00 / 2) (#137)
by johnw on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 04:31:43 PM EST

There is an excellent book on the market titled "How to Read a Book". It's very old and has gone through several editions and printings. I recommend it to anyone who found this article interesting.

Basically, the premise of that book is that different material deserves different levels of attention. It's not wise to accelerate your reading through ALL types of material. Monthly journals, most Internet postings, etc., only deserve the least amount of attention and time you can give. Therefore, learning how to read extremely fast while "getting the gist" of the article is an important skill. It will save you time that can be better spent on more intense material.

At the same time, there exist publications that deserve not only your full time, but whatever trick it takes to fully comprehend and internalize the text.

For example, I like to read without vocalization. It's a neat trick, and practice will reward your efforts. Once you've learned to read without vocalizing, you'll find that thinking without verbalizing is the next logical step. It's quite possible to do, and can accelerate and de-linearize your thinking process by many times.

However, when I hit a text that I really want to savor, one that has deep-reaching implications and will affect my view of everything, I turn off all the acceleration devices. I vocalize, I read every word; heck, sometimes I read it out loud. If it's even more profound, I will memorize it, which means giving every word in the text equal attention. Of course, this method is almost always reserved for religious or philosophical texts of short length, but profound meaning.

The point is, develop a variable reading skill. Definitely improve your grammar and vocabulary; the worth of this cannot be over-estimated. At age 18 I could not follow "Grapes of Wrath"; at age 30 I can breeze through Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" with pure enjoyment. This is the value of strong language skills.

Once you have a variable reading skill, you can decide how much a certain text is worth. The benefit of doing so? You will retain what you want to retain. From an Internet posting, you only need the gist, or even just how to find it again should the point become relevant! With Plato's Thaetetus, you need to follow the argument and understand the point and its implications. But with the Tao Teh Ching there's a lot of stuff going on there, and speed reading it will only give you images -- not the heart of the matter those images are meant to serve.

Remember, it's not the quantity of material you read in life that matters; it's the good material that transforms you that makes all the difference.



simplified.......... (none / 0) (#141)
by dislocated mind on Sun Jul 07, 2002 at 03:34:47 AM EST

  i find that the speed that i read at is directly related to the subject matter. if i am reading really engrossing  fiction then i seem to fly (i just read domain by steve alten in under 12 hours). if i am reading something that i am not interested in (like school work)then i seem to get lost in the text, sometimes having to reread whole sections over because i seemed to "space out".  there are readers and there are non readers. the non readers are missing out.
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do and damned if you don't" Eleanor Roosevelt
Sub-Vocalization (none / 0) (#144)
by sarabian on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 05:03:47 AM EST

I hadn't heard of Sub-Vocalization before I read this article, and didn't do it. Now, I can't read anything without thinking each word in my head. My reading has slowed down considerably :)

Similar sentiments (none / 0) (#149)
by MechaA on Fri Aug 02, 2002 at 03:56:43 PM EST

I have never subvocalized myself, and upon reading this article I tried it out; to me, it seems really strange and unnatural. I'd actually like to try *learning* to subvocalize both for the pure curiosity, and to read plays etc. But what I wonder is what makes children start doing this (or not). I taught myself to read at a young age, so I'm not the best authority. Do teachers now tend to teach specifically to subvocalize (or use 'phonics')? Or do people do this on their own?

k24anson on K5: Imagine fifty, sixty year old men and women still playing with their genitals like ten year olds!

[ Parent ]
Good writing should... (none / 0) (#150)
by ruggiero on Fri Aug 02, 2002 at 05:25:32 PM EST

Good writing should allow you to only read the first sentence of a paragraph, and let you know exactly what the paragraph is going to be about. Most of time when I read, I read the first sentence of a paragraph, then decide if I want to read the rest. If I don't, I'll skip to the next paragraph and "drag" my eyes along the paragraph I decided to miss while going to the next paragraph... that way it gives me sort of a lead-in to the paragraph after the one I decided to skip.

How to Read Quickly Without Really Trying | 150 comments (138 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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