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Tags reading , speed , wood , evelyn

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Old 26th August 2003, 04:39 AM   #1
SquishyDave
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Evelyn Wood Speed reading

Has anyone heard of Evelyn Woods speed reading techniques? Are they woo-woo or does it work?

Any studies that prove or disprove it, no studies at all?

US site here

Aussie site here

Edited to add
Straight Dope Says it's a scam. And gave a book to look up, which my brother is doing right now. I still want to hear if anyone has other info please.
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Old 26th August 2003, 05:17 AM   #2
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Like Straight Dope said, that was the conclusion decades ago, so it probably hasn't changed much...

Why do you want to speed-read anyway? Half the fun is in enjoying every titillating juicy word...I've...said too much...
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Old 26th August 2003, 05:52 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zep
Why do you want to speed-read anyway? Half the fun is in enjoying every titillating juicy word...I've...said too much...
My Zeppy friend I agree with you, but my borther is going through uni, and an opportunity came up to spend $500 on this very speed reading course this weekend. I am now known among my family for my skepticism so he asked me to check this out for him to make sure he wasn't gonna be scammed, sufficed to say he is going straight to the uni library tomorrow to have a look at the book mentioned in straight dope.

As I am trying to be a true skeptic, I can't take straight dopes word for it, so we will check what the book says about the conditions of the test. Make sure it wasn't biased.

Skepticism is fun
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Old 26th August 2003, 06:01 AM   #4
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Basically, "speed reading" is not woo-woo, it does "work" to a certain extent, and it is handy in places. But it isn't anything like a substitute for proper study of the texts.

Old joke: I read War And Peace using speed-reading - it's about Russia.

However speed-reading is really good for disposing of the daily tabloid paper in under 60 seconds, so it can be put to its intended use in the bathroom...
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Old 26th August 2003, 07:28 AM   #5
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My brother had some speed reading books. Unfortunately, neither he nor I could get it to work, and my dream of rattling through a book in seconds, Short Circuit-style, remains merely a dream. However, I can still announce "Input!" whenever I open a book, which is nearly as good. At any rate, having flunked speed reading school, I shall share my experiences with you.

The rationale behind the method was always explained along the lines of "when you look at a painting of a tree, you don't look at the roots, bark, leaves etc. as separate pieces, you look at the tree as a whole. Why not READ that way?"

Now, I'm no visual psychologist or neurologist, but I suspect that reading and looking at a picture use rather different parts of the brain, so it's probably not possible to compare the two. It was also stressed that to start reading really quickly you have to stop sub-vocalising the words as you read them, and just trust your subconscious to take it all in. Perhaps the part of me that was saying "this is palpable nonsense" was interfering with my subconscious, but having dragged my eyes over a page of text, I found myself in the entirely unsurprising position of not knowing a single word of it.

The one bit of the books that one might consider to be useful were those that dealt with normal reading. One is advised to use a finger or other guide (like a pencil) to keep one's eyes focussed on the line of text. I find that quite helpful. There, the one useful 'secret' of speed reading revealed! Truly, I am the Masked Magician of speed reading.

However, beyond this tit-bit, things begin to go a little awry. Based on the principle that you can read several words simultaneously on a line (which is true), it is suggested that you can extend this field of vision to take in entire lines, then two lines, three lines and so on until you can read a whole paragraph in one mighty glance. Yeah, right.

It is also suggested that instead of doing all that tedious moving of the eyes back to the start of the next line when you finish the previous line, you just read the next line backwards. Combined with the 'power glancing' I described above, you are supposed to be able to try reading two lines in a forwards sweep and then the next two lines in the backwards sweep and so on, gradually increasing the amount you take in, until your eyes are veritable word-hoovers.

"But James," I hear you ask, "wouldn't that mean you were reading half the words in the wrong order?". How true. But don't worry, reassure the books, look at the following backwards sentence:
Quote:
mat the on sat cat the
You can understand that, right? It's got something to do with mats and cats, you get the general idea. See, that whole thing about writing sentences with the words in the right order, it's a myth, promulgated by old-fashioned slothful slow-readers!

Actually, I'm pretty sure that none of the books used 'the cat sat on the mat' as an example, but they were all along those trivially moronic lines. Strangely, I never saw an example taken from a physics textbook. Taken to extremes, what the speed readers are suggesting is that, given that they reckon that they can read whole lines and paragraphs in the wrong order, is that you could take all the words in a book, place them in random order (or hell, alphabetical order) and they would still be able to make sense of it. This is clearly absurd.

Mind you, if you think speed reading is stupid, take a look at photoreading. Speed reading? Yesterday's 21st century learning technique, daddio! With PhotoReading(TM), you take a mental photograph of each page, with, yes, one's subconscious. The main part of the technique involves staring at the middle of the book and defocussing your eyes, so that you see double, and then, er, turning the pages. It's so simple and effortless, it's almost as if you were doing absolutely nothing of any value whatsoever! Incredible. Let me know if you can get this to work. It may be that my subconscious now knows a hell of a lot more than I do. Unfortunately, if it does know, it ain't telling.

edited for various abysmalspelling/grammar/usage crimes against English
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Old 26th August 2003, 07:39 AM   #6
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If I recall correctly, speed reading got a big boost back in the Kennedy administration, when all those Best and Brightest guys were supposed to have taken the Evelyn Wood course, and of course we all wanted to be like Jack and Bobby back then. I was all kinds of impressed and made the mistake of telling my dad, who had the annoying habit of never believing anything I said (perhaps because I lied a lot). He asked me a very pointed question when I told him how EWRD would increase your comprehension: "What makes you think that if you didn't comprehend something at 300 words a minute, you'd comprehend it at a thousand?"

He really used to piss me off with those questions.
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Old 26th August 2003, 12:34 PM   #7
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Back in the mid-70's, I was required by my employer to take a speed reading course. I was always skeptical of the claims made by the presenters but since I was not paying for it, I decided to give it an honest try.

The course began with the instructor claiming that, using certain techniques, he could read at an incredible rate with nearly total comprehension. I don't recall the rate at which he claimed to be able to read but it was very impressive. I asked him for a demonstration of his ability. His response was that the class schedule did not permit time for him to do such a demonstration. This set off my ******** alarm.

The instructor was a very personable guy with a smooth style which was not unlike the TV evangalist preaching the 'gospel of self-esteem' to an audience with self-confidence issues. His approach was designed to convince that one could attain the course goals if you had the will to believe. The whole thing smacked of an Amway meeting.

The first four hours of the course was a combination of anacdotal claims and pop psychology which was swollowed whole by the class. My ******** meter was in the red zone.

We were then given a 'pre-test' to determine our present level of reading speed and comprehension. The text used for this test was the 'Dialogues of Plato' followed by a fill-in-the-blank quiz.

Needless to say, the results were dismal.

He then assured us that our speed and comprehension would increase dramatically after learning the proper techniques. This was followed by more self-esteem boosting pop psychology crap.

Basically, the remainder of the course consisted of forcing yourself to quickly read texts which were progressively easier to read and comprehend simply because the texts contained smaller words, bigger type face, and ideas and facts that are common knowledge.

A mid-course test was given and we all improved dramatically. Imagine that! The text used for this test was a slim little book which was on the best seller list and very popular. It was "The Greatest Salesman in the World" by OG Mandino. Mandino was, at that time, the current self-help guru and wrote what amounts to pop psychology for Smurfs. This book gives many people that 'warm fuzzy feeling'. It gives me occassional drowsiness and nausea.


More 'gospel of self-esteem' crap from the instructor was followed by tips on how to 'scan' the page and recall certain 'key' words.

Then came time for the final test. The text used for the final test was a slim little book that was on the best-seller list at that time and very popular: "Conversations With Kennedy" . This was simply a book of recollections of one of JFK's inner circle.

Now, considering that this was in the early 70's and nearly everyone in the class was in high school during the Kennedy years, this seemed more like a test of recent American history than a reading comprehension test. I could have scored high on the test without having just "speed read" the book.


When the results of the 'post-test' were announced, everyone in the class had increased his reading speed and comprehension by at least 300%. Very impressive!

What a load of crap! The sad part is that nearly all in the class actually believed this hooey. Everyone submitted a critique of the course that was simply gushing with praise. My critique consisted of just one word: "Nuts".

I did give the course my full attention and faithfully followed all the instruction.

I noticed no difference in my ability to read and comprehend and since the testing was so flawed, the 460% increase I acheived on the test is meaningless. I could have managed that result without taking the course and never having read any of the texts.

There may be speed reading courses available that do get results
but, the Evelyn Wood course I took was a scam. The level of student manipulation is very obvious.

"Shovel them books faster, Jethro! Miss Woods is readin' agin!"
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Old 26th August 2003, 02:18 PM   #8
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I took a speed reading course about fifteen years ago. The basic technique that seemed usefull was a methodolgy of browsing key areas to garner the important info while simply skipping the stuff in between. When reading for fun this is pointless, and when going over complex ideas you often need to read every step in the process, so not very usefull there either. However for reading that isn't for pleasure and for information culling that does not require every step, the method can allow a passable way to "speed" through text.

For example take the message above and only read the first sentence ( the topic ) and the end ( the result ).


Quote:
Back in the mid-70's, I was required by my employer to take a speed reading course.

There may be speed reading courses available that do get results
but, the Evelyn Wood course I took was a scam. The level of student manipulation is very obvious.
You can eliminate the bulk of the text and still have most of the meaning.

Call it speed reading, skimming, browsing, I don't care. It's a cute technique that sometimes allows you to skip through text without losing much.

I don't use it much. I enjoy reading.
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Old 27th August 2003, 05:13 PM   #9
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Thanks heaps for the amusing antedotes, after reading the book mentioned by straight dope in the link in my first post, my brother has decided not to spend the money on the course at this stage. He should also be perusing this thread today to see what you guys thought. (He would have look earlier but the site was down) He may choose to spend $35 on the book later so he can speed read the newspaper, but he won't be spending $500 on a course for this. He was hoping it would help with his uni work, but after careful considering of the studies he has decided it won't be any use there.

The impression my brother got from the information evening he went to was that Evelyn's technique would increase comprehension as it increased speed. Oh well
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Old 27th August 2003, 07:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by apoger
I took a speed reading course about fifteen years ago. The basic technique that seemed usefull was a methodolgy of browsing key areas to garner the important info while simply skipping the stuff in between. When reading for fun this is pointless, and when going over complex ideas you often need to read every step in the process, so not very usefull there either. However for reading that isn't for pleasure and for information culling that does not require every step, the method can allow a passable way to "speed" through text.

For example take the message above and only read the first sentence ( the topic ) and the end ( the result ).




You can eliminate the bulk of the text and still have most of the meaning.

Call it speed reading, skimming, browsing, I don't care. It's a cute technique that sometimes allows you to skip through text without losing much.

I don't use it much. I enjoy reading.
This is the only version of speed reading that has ever worked in my experience. And like you said, you don't comprehend what you've read very well. At best, you end up with the jist of whatever text you've been glancing at and nothing more. I'd never do this reading a book that i was really interested in.
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Old 28th August 2003, 06:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by JamesM
My brother had some speed reading books. Unfortunately, neither he nor I could get it to work,
Maybe you were reading the speed reading books too slowly.
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Old 28th August 2003, 06:22 AM   #12
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Originally posted by BPSCG
If I recall correctly, speed reading got a big boost back in the Kennedy administration, when all those Best and Brightest guys were supposed to have taken the Evelyn Wood course, and of course we all wanted to be like Jack and Bobby back then.
Hmmm ... I recall one peddler of a speed-reading course claiming that John F. Kennedy could read an entire newspaper in half an hour at the breakfast table. His reading speed was quoted as something on the order of 1500 words per minute.

Is there any truth to this rumor?
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Old 29th August 2003, 04:40 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by tracer

Hmmm ... I recall one peddler of a speed-reading course claiming that John F. Kennedy could read an entire newspaper in half an hour at the breakfast table. His reading speed was quoted as something on the order of 1500 words per minute.

Is there any truth to this rumor?
Truth or not, I could READ the entire newspaper in half an hour, but Which paper are we talking about (ie. New York Times vs. New York Post) and being able to read the stock market reports is a lot different than being able to understand the stock market reports and utilizing the information later.
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Old 29th September 2003, 04:39 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by tracer

Hmmm ... I recall one peddler of a speed-reading course claiming that John F. Kennedy could read an entire newspaper in half an hour at the breakfast table. His reading speed was quoted as something on the order of 1500 words per minute.

Is there any truth to this rumor?
It's always safest to claim things when the only person who can counter it is dead!

This reminds me of the photoreading course peddled on TV and the internet........ and look at their discussion forum just for fun^.^

Their shtick is that you can look at stuff for a fraction of a second and it's effectively in your unconscious mind. Then you have to go over the material again and again to bring it forth to your conscious mind. Basically the later steps include skimming, and that's where most of your comprehension comes from.

But one thing in the course is true IMHO, most casual reading is 90% clutter. Of course I'm not applying this high percentage to science books or technical manuals. But many details we read, we lose unless we reinforce them again and again somehow......... so you probably get as much from most newspaper articles if you read the title, a few captions under the available images, and the first and last paragraph...... that's how I would read a newspaper in under half an hour^__^
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Old 29th September 2003, 05:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by tracer

Hmmm ... I recall one peddler of a speed-reading course claiming that John F. Kennedy could read an entire newspaper in half an hour at the breakfast table. His reading speed was quoted as something on the order of 1500 words per minute.
Is there any truth to this rumor?
Dunno about JFK. But there's at least one anecdote about a historian or somesuch giving a copy of his newly-published work to Theodore Roosevelt just before dinner, and Roosevelt was able to discuss and critique it at length with the author the next morning at breakfast. Citation is somewhere in Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, if I'm not mistaken.
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Old 29th September 2003, 10:32 AM   #16
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It took me 7.32 hours to read this thread.
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Old 29th September 2003, 10:41 AM   #17
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Are there any online tests of speed v. comprehension? I would like to know whether I read as quickly as I think I do, or if I'm fooling myself.
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Old 29th September 2003, 11:58 AM   #18
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Quote:
I do feel sorry for 'whitehair', who's doing all the suggested PhotoReading techniques and not getting any joy from his biology textbook. I wonder why that might be?

Of course, it's because he's lacking 'purpose' when he PhotoReads.

Of course.
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Old 29th September 2003, 12:16 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by BPSCG
Dunno about JFK. But there's at least one anecdote about a historian or somesuch giving a copy of his newly-published work to Theodore Roosevelt just before dinner, and Roosevelt was able to discuss and critique it at length with the author the next morning at breakfast. Citation is somewhere in Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, if I'm not mistaken.

How long was the book?

I read Jane Eyre in four hours. My husband was skeptical that I could retain much in that short of a time, so he quizzed me. He had read it several times and could come up with questions that involved a lot of the text. I answered tham all correctly.

I read Animal Farm within an hour and a half. Lord of the Rings, the entire three volumes, took me three days and I worked those three days too.

Never took a speed reading course, and never will. Some people just read faster than others, I just happen to be one of those people.
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Old 29th September 2003, 12:38 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by JamesM

I do feel sorry for 'whitehair', who's doing all the suggested PhotoReading techniques and not getting any joy from his biology textbook. I wonder why that might be?
Gods yes. He is asking The Ultimate Taboo Question: why doesn't this crap work?

These people are so heavily invested in their delusions.
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Old 15th July 2004, 09:38 AM   #21
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I think Pat Paulsen's commentary on Evelyn Wood was the best (scroll down to the Speed-Reading link).
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Old 15th July 2004, 09:48 AM   #22
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I speed read this thread. What I got from it was:

Y'all are bitching about something or another.


Seriously, I took a course in high school for this. It was as the others posted, it taught you how to skim. The faster you go, the lower the comprehension. We took a bunch of tests that didn't seem stacked (easier material as you get 'better'), and basically at the end we were reading faster, but with lower comprehension.

I find it useful, in that I am often looking through books looking for a nugget of information - being able to parse quickly let's me not waste a lot of time. But that's about it.
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Old 15th July 2004, 10:55 AM   #23
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I've long suspected that the Wood's courses, and teach yourself methods were hokum, but the ability of one person to finish a book in much less time than the next person, while retaining a significant amount of the material isn't a myth.

Learning to read long before there were any popular speed reading Kennedys to emulate, I recall one school year which included a graduate student who came in regularly to take the entire class through reading exercises with a tachistiscope, putting entire sentences and paragraphs up for shorter and shorter periods of time...

There was no leading with a finger, or clumping, or skimming, or scanning, or any of the other tricks mentioned...we just kept reading faster and faster, taking comprehension tests (which were designed as test instruments, not sales tools) along the way.
As I recall, after that 4th grade year I read at about 1200 wpm with 90% comprehension. (Which seems lower than some of the reading speeds advertised by the commercial programs, and higher on comprehension than some of the scores reported by critics).

In any case, it came in useful for a long period of time, until today of course, when advancing age has played havoc my both vision and my memory.
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Old 16th July 2004, 06:55 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by dmarker
Never took a speed reading course, and never will. Some people just read faster than others, I just happen to be one of those people.
I'm in the same boat. My other half swears I can't be reading properly, but I am. I accuse her of being a slow reader .

As a (slight) aside, back in the '80s the tubes in London were full of "Speed writing" course adverts. They'd say things like
Quote:
f u cn rd ths u my bnfit frm a spd ritn crse
I often thought that if you could read that you wouldn't need a speed writing course, but there you go. Funnily enough, although computers probably nixed the speed writers (who writes these days? Pffft!), they could probably set up shop again for the mobile phone txters.
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Old 16th July 2004, 09:27 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by dmarker
Lord of the Rings, the entire three volumes, took me three days and I worked those three days too.
Some stuff I can read pretty quick, but I still find things like the LOTR a harder read then even Accounting texts. The manner of writing is different enough to what I am used to that it slows me down. More modern writing I can fly through.

When practicing for my final exam, I found I could read the questions in about 2/3rds the time as the people I was studying with (these were long questions, taking an hour or more to get through). It did give me a great advantage as I could have an extra 20 minutes to work on my answer.
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Old 16th July 2004, 09:39 AM   #26
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Originally posted by JamesM
Taken to extremes, what the speed readers are suggesting is that, given that they reckon that they can read whole lines and paragraphs in the wrong order, is that you could take all the words in a book, place them in random order (or hell, alphabetical order) and they would still be able to make sense of it. This is clearly absurd.
Er... actually, that comparison is clearly absurd. If you wanted to "take it to extreme", you would reverse the order of the words in the entire book. The point is, the function that reverses the order of words is invertible, while the function that "randomizes" them clearly is not.

I make no argument as to whether most people can easily reverse sentences in their heads (although presumably after much practice, you could get much better)--I'm just pointing out that it's logically feasible, while un-randomizing them is certainly not.
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Old 16th July 2004, 10:31 AM   #27
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A college professor once told me about a way to get the gist of just about any humanities-type text very quickly.

You read the first and last paragraphs of each chapter in their entirety, as well as the first sentences of each paragraph in between.

I've tried it a few times. Works well enough for the most part.

Definitely worthwhile to get a quick-and-dirty feel for the usefulness/appropriateness of a text.
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Old 16th July 2004, 02:11 PM   #28
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My secret for speed reading is to ignore words with vowels. Comprehension varies.
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Old 17th July 2004, 08:32 AM   #29
JamesM
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Quote:
Originally posted by flyboy217
Er... actually, that comparison is clearly absurd. If you wanted to "take it to extreme", you would reverse the order of the words in the entire book.
The comparison is supposed to be absurd! I think you misunderstand (or I misunderstand you) - reversing an entire book would not be what speed readers do at an extreme. This is what my comparison was illustrating.

One of the intermediate techniques of speed reading is to read several lines left-to-right simultaneously, then several lines right-to-left simultaneously. Starting at the end of a paragraph and working back to the beginning preserves the consecutive order of the reading, just reverses it. This is not what speed reading is about. As I said when I originally made that post, the technique is compared to looking at a picture, you take in all the details simultaneously, not sequentially, the order is supposedly irrelevant.

At any rate, eventually, the good speed reader is supposedly not aware of the order of the words, or of the words at all, the information 'comes alive' in the mind's eye of the reader like a film.
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