Category Archives: Language and words

So Many Books, Too Little Time – On Speed Reading

Some years ago I did a course on speed reading. I am a naturally fast reader, but to read even faster was something I wanted to learn. I mean there are so many books out there I want to read.

The thing with speed reading is that it’s a technique that needs practice – much like a muscle needs constant work to keep its shape.

Using your peripheral vision

Thomas Oppong, founder @Alltopstartups writes in his article How to Teach Yourself to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day about learning to use your peripheral vision. This was one of the things I was taught to do in the course, which is the core idea behind speed reading.

“Using your peripheral vision allows you to read with fewer eye fixations because your vision span is wider and you can see, read, and process more words at a time.” (Thomas Oppong)

This helps you to read in clumps, which is “a collection of 4 to 16 adjacent words that you read in a single glance. When you read in clumps, you naturally increase your speed because you can’t slow down to vocalize (speak or hear the words as you read them).”

What is subvocalisation?

The reason we don’t read fast is that we’re verbalising the individual words in our minds as we read them. This is called subvocalisation, “or silent speech, is the internal speech typically made when reading; it provides the sound of the word as it is read.[1][2] This is a natural process when reading and it helps the mind to access meanings to comprehend and remember what is read, potentially reducing cognitive load.[3] This inner speech is characterized by minuscule movements in the larynx and other muscles involved in the articulation of speech.” (Wikipedia).

A good technique to learn to read in clumps is to run your finger across the sentences as you read them. Forget what teachers told in school – running your finger across the sentences does work, and you’ll see your speed increase as you’re taking in the clumps of words. This simple act helps you focus on what you’re reading and you’ll naturally start to engage your peripheral vision. Eventually, you’ll not need to do this anymore.

But what about comprehension?

Much of the criticism for speed reading rests on how much you retain or comprehend when speed reading,  and personal preferences to savour each word, idea or concept as they’re read.

Thorin Klosowski says in his article The Truth About Speed Reading that it is “a skill peddled by supposed experts” and goes on to take a look at different methods.

He writes about skimming (glancing through text looking for the parts to read), metaguiding (as mentioned above, using your finger to help you focus) and Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (where “single words flash on the screen so you’re concentrating on a single word at a time”).

He ends off by saying:

“Personally, I’ve tried all the above methods, and they’re too exhausting for me. It takes a lot of focus and mental effort to speed read, and when you do it you’re missing out on information. I like the fact that when I’m reading a book or article I can take a few moments to pause and think about an idea. With speed reading, these moments are gone. I might consume a ton of information, but I don’t feel like I actually process it. That defeats the purpose of reading for me.” (Thorin Klosowksi)

My fit-for-purpose reading techniques

Ultimately it is about you, and what you prefer, like a fit-for-purpose reading technique. For example, I use my peripheral vision for emails, skim documents because they carry a lot of ‘gumpfh’ to get to the real meaty stuff, I deliberately slow down to savour each word when reading my favourite authors, and I take notes and use sketching techniques when I want to connect with, interpret and apply what I’m reading.

Example of a sketchnote I took 
©2018 Regina Martins

So, dear reader, what reading techniques do you use and are they context specific?


Immersion Or Emersion

Similar to immigrate and emigrate, these 2 words are often used incorrectly.

I use this easy way of remembering of distinguishing one from the other.

Emigrate and immigrate

Going away (the ‘from’ country): emigrate is when you leave your home country to go and live in another country – e.g. you emigrate from New Zealand.

Going towards (the ‘to’ country): immigrate is when you go to live in another country – e.g. you immigrate to Australia. Think of the letter “i” as in going in to another country…immigrating.

Emersion and immersion

Coming out or up: emersion is when you appear from, coming out or up of; emerging from something (e.g. water) or somewhere (e.g. a retreat or sabbatical).

Going in or down: immersion is to submerge, sink or go down into something; to become involved in, to cover oneself. Again, think of the letter “i” as in going inimmersion.

Reblog: 45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’

I don’t like using the word ‘very’ for various reasons:

  • It sounds insincere
  • It is overused
  • It is not professional
  • <insert your own>

And yet there are times when that is the only word that I can come up with, almost like a shortcut. The problem with shortcuts is that they are context specific and subjective which can lead to a lack of understanding. So a quick way to communicate can turn out to be just the opposite.

I was delighted to read this morning Writers Write blog post on 45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word ‘Very’ – click on the link to get a useful table of what words can be used instead.


My Biggest Words Of 2016

It is not surprising that my biggest word for 2016 was Home. I wrote about Home and Identity many times on these pages this year. With all the travelling I have done, coming back home was awesome. I enjoy travelling and seeing new places and I do it because I know I have my home to come back to, to ground, recharge and reconnect with myself.

Continue reading My Biggest Words Of 2016