What a neat post, from Brain Pickings: “How to Read Faster: Bill Cosby’s Three Proven Strategies” —
“Bill Cosby may be best-known as the beloved personality behind his eponymous TV show, but he earned his doctorate in education and has been involved in several projects teaching the essential techniques of effective reading, including a PBS series on reading skills. In an essay unambiguously titled “How to Read Faster,” published in the same wonderful 1985 anthology How to Use the Power of the Printed Word (UK; public library) that gave us Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 timeless rules of writing, Cosby offers his three proven strategies for reading faster. Apart from their evergreen application to the printed word, it’s particularly interesting to consider how these rules might translate to the digital screen, where structural factors like scrolling, pagination, hyperlinks, and adjustable font sizes make the text and the reading experience at once more fluid and more rigid.”
The three tips boil down to —
1. Previewing: Read the first two paragraphs, the last two paragraphs, and the first sentence of any paragraphs in between.
2. Skimming: Read very quickly, to pick up a few key words at a time and get the general idea, like so:
3. Clustering. The most important of the three — “word-by-word reading is a rotten way to read faster. It actually cuts down on your speed.
Clustering trains you to look at groups of words instead of one at a time, and it increases your speed enormously. For most of us, clustering is a totally different way of seeing what we read.
Here’s how to cluster: Train your eyes to see all the words in clusters of up to three or four words at a glance.”
Reading on the screen doubtless brings its own unique challenges. I’m starting to think about hyperlinks differently — Nicholas Carr makes a compelling argument about the hyperlink as a distraction technology. From Wired: “The Web Shatters Focus, Wires Brains“
Nowadays it feels like avoiding distractions are our biggest hurdle when it comes to how fast we read. How well do we avoid distractions while reading?
(I love this picture by the way).