Why Reading Word By Word Is A Bad Strategy To Better Understand An Idea
You may not realize it, but we all read very often in our daily life. We always want to go through all the documents faster at work; we just want to find out the main point of all the long letters and notes from the government or any kinds of organizations quickly; even when we read for leisure, we’d probably be traveling on the bus and just want to finish the current chapter as soon as possible. Yes I get it, you want to read faster without missing the gems.
But is speeding up your word-by-word reading what you should do? The answer is definitely no.
Reading word by word slows you down from processing the idea.
When we read, our eyes normally stop on each word. We call this fixation. It is a bad idea to stop at every word in the text because it slows down the reading speed and may even affect our ability to understand the text.1
Language would not have worked without a context. It is true that every word has its own literal meaning but what makes it alive is the context of the text. With the same word but in different contexts, it expresses different contextual meanings, revealing different meanings behind the word. Instead of reading every single word, understanding the context is more important. By having the context in mind, you know what kinds of words you should pay attention to more.
Try to read phrase by phrase instead.
English readers can read roughly two or three words at a time, so instead of stopping at every word, you can stop at every three words. Ideas are not made up of a single word. Being able to read a text phrase by phrase instead of word by word even helps you to understand the idea better.
Skim for the keywords only.
Words play different roles in a sentence. Some are more meaningful while some are less. When our eyes do not stop on each word anymore, we can try skimming to absorb the more meaningful words and ignore those which are less meaningful. What makes a sentence complete is a subject and a verb while all the other elements are only complementing the sentence. For most of the time, you will not have any difficulties in understanding the text despite absorbing the keywords only.
Remember, ideas are bigger than words.
Ideas are made up of words. When you stop reading word by word and focus more on the idea you’re trying to understand, you will read faster. While speeding up reading can increase your productivity at work, it allows you to enjoy reading more!
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