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Speed Reading Techniques

Is there a technique which work ?

Any recommendations ?

A Damn Slow Reader
Sunday, September 14, 2003

I learned speed reading from "The Great Space Coaster" where SpeedReader warmed up his eyes by following his fingers up and down then side to side.

Tom Vu
Sunday, September 14, 2003

One topic in speed reading that comes up again and again is expanding the scope of your vision.  Often when reading we read one work or a part of a word at a time.  When you read out loud this results in strange phrasings and poor punctuation ... think of it like machine gunning your words.

If you can learn to read multiple words or phrases at a time you'll be a lot faster at reading and things will actually make a lot more sense.  Basically try to read two words at the same time, it takes a lot of work and you almost have to be unaware of the effort.  When you get proficient you can get to the point where you can read half a line or more at once.  Context is what really helps speed up the reading at that point.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

I never took any formal training, but I have to agree with the concept of reading more than a word at a time.

A lot of it depends on the difficulty of the content. The new Harry Potter book, I could read a page in about 15 seconds, and make it through many hundreds of pages in perhaps a quarter the time that it takes me to read a ~ 150 page philosophy book.

Brad Wilson (
Sunday, September 14, 2003

"Speed reading" does not mean "read with 100% comprehension" - it means "follow the plot".

A great set of books to read to get an idea of the concept are Zelazny's Amber series. In that fantasy world, characters often "walk through shadows" which consists of pages of glimpses of parallel worlds as they travel.

When you read the books, just skim the shadow travel - you can cover pages in seconds by just glimpsing every few lines.

You can do the same with tech manuals when you're looking for an answer, but it doesn't work when you're trying to learn new concepts, because individual sections of the text are not disposable.


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Speed reading is not the same as skimming.

You can increase your speed of reading by on average 10 fold, for some people this becomes an irritant rather than an advantage.

Skimming is useful when searching for specific knowledge, even in unfamiliar texts.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, September 14, 2003

Read.  A lot.  (=  In high school, I often neglected homework in favor of reading novels, and got to the point where I could tear through a Piers Anthony novel (and yes, I've since come to my senses and stopped reading his stuff) in about 3 hours.  My speed depends on the material (I blaze through Harry Potter, slow down somewhat for Neal Stephenson or Dune, and drop to a relative crawl through code or math texts), and whether I'm reading for recreation or learning, but the more I do it, the faster I get.

I don't know how you'd learn this other than by a "brute force" method like mine (i.e., tens of thousands of hours of reading), but eventually you should get to where you can take in words, phrases, and sometimes entire short sentences all at once.  I really don't read a word one letter at a time; I recognize the whole thing by its shape.

Hope this helps.  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Sunday, September 14, 2003

I had a speed reading course in college.  It was very good.  I got up to about 1100 wpm with 90% comprehension.

They key was learning the roots, suffixes and prefixes.  You learned the latin and greek roots that most of our words were derived from.  For instance specare is a root.  Iirc it means to see.  Spectacles and other words later derived from it.  By learning these roots you would enhance your reading comprehension.  The professor had this cool machine where he would project a word up on the screen so fast you didn't think you saw it.  You could recall the word if asked.  It was a really coold course. 

I still read faster than average, but I later majored in Science.  I think speed reading would be great for a law, history, or any non technical major.  The problem I had in science was much of what you learn is how a system works. Explaining a system, the Krebs cycle for instance, lends itself to diagrams which don't lend themselves to speed reading.

If you can find an honest to goodness speed reading course, I would encourage you to take it.

As an aside, do any of you remember where you read something in a book?  For example I recall not getting an answer on a test, but after the test was over opening the book to the page it was on and knowing if the answer was on the right or left page and the top or the bottom of the page.  I could damn near see the page in my mind.

Monday, September 15, 2003

There is a software called Ace Reader which is very good for helping you learn speed reading, and also for speed reading web pages.

Also, Paul Scheele makes an excellent speed reading book, which is available both as a printed or as an audio book.

They both helped me a lot.

Jed Boree
Monday, September 15, 2003

Sort of on-topic for this post (re: how we look at words):

Sam Livingston-Gray
Monday, September 15, 2003

Far too many years ago I took the original "Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics" course.  A few items from that:

- Recall and comprehension techniques are key

- Just using your index finger to scan the words (like kids do when they're learning to read) can increase your reading speed significantly.

- Somewhat de-focus your eyes to take in phrases and whole sentances instead of individual words.

Mark Newman
Monday, September 15, 2003

How to read a book. Yes, a book about reading books. Very much worth the time and effort.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The device to flash words and/or pictures up for short periods of time is a tachistoscope. Dr. Samuel Renshaw worked with the Navy during World War II, training spotters in airplane recognition using one. He also did studies that involved flashing digit sequences and sentences.

The current apparent consensus is that tachistoscope training isn't transferable (you won't learn to read faster by seeing aircraft recognition profiles), but that using one that projects text helps reading speed by increasing "perceptual span" - the number of words your brain will accept in one chunk.

There's some disagreement as to whether it's the best way to do it, though.

Steven R. Wheeler
Thursday, September 18, 2003

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