The Atlantic

A Better Way to Read

In the era of attention deficits, the new text will not be black and white.
Source: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters

It’s rare to think about it, but moving your eyes back and forth over lines of text is one of the most commonly performed bodily motions.

When reading, your eyes go from word to word, left to right, one after another. When you hit the end of the line, your eyes make what’s called a return sweep. They go back to the left, to the beginning of the next line. During that sweep, we get a little time to process information. (Are you thinking about it now?)

That sweep is also where many of us mess up. We lose time. Most people don’t go all the way back to the first word, for example. We tend to land on the second or third word in a line, and then make another backwards movement to get to that first word. That’s inefficient.

Like any physical movement, they’re a matter of practice and coordination. The mechanics of getting text into one’s brain require skill apart from that involved in processing the meaning in that text. As with something like swimming or skateboarding, it’s a skill where most people can become proficient, but everyone’s capacity for speed and precision is not equal.

But there are ways to enhance our abilities.

To illustrate this, try):

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