Friday, June 03, 2016

Speed Reading Isn't What It Used To Be...

Years ago, there was an advertisement for the Evelyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program. I checked Amazon and you can still buy a used hardbound copy for a penny, plus about 4 bucks for shipping. The course has been around since 1959 and although I never read it, I heard it was pretty effective.

For Millennials, thank the Good Lord there is an Ap for it. Hardbound books are so cumbersome!

According to the advertisement, "In just minutes, you'll notice a real difference in your reading speed, and in succeeding chapters of this seven-day program you'll get the secrets of effective note-taking, find tips for instantly improving your writing, and much more."

Now doing a tad of research, most college age readers do about 200 to 400 words per minute. Using one of the many newer versions of speed reading hasn’t really improved on Evelyn Wood’s method and this includes the new applications for Smartphones and pads.

And to cut through all the studies, the bottom line is as reading speed increases, comprehension drops. This means you're not taking in the information, which defeats the purpose of reading.  I am a fairly fast reader and probably fall into the 400 wpm group, but as they say, my mileage may vary. I pride myself on pushing comprehension over how fast I can get through a book, article, or fact sheet. I routinely read my weekly submission 5 or more times before I send it in.

Now here is a trend I’ve noticed over the number of years I’ve written my column – people are not really comprehending what I write and on a fairly regular basis. If it is happening to me, it is a general problem, rather than a specific one. In other words, people flash across a column picking words and phrases and if it stabs at something they are passionate about, they automatically start building a defense and shut off the rest of the column.  Never mind that it doesn’t attack one of their hallow halls, but possibly supports what they actually believe.

Maybe the real problem is I shouldn’t write about sensitive subjects where people have to actually ruminate and comprehend the content. My friend Robert Prall (RIP) once told me I use too many big words and write about stuff people are uneasy about. “You force them to skip over your columns.” I told him it was not my plan to flower down my columns so people can feel all gushy inside. My intent is to stimulate people into defining what they truly believe instead of blindly supping the politically correct lukewarm pabulum that is spoon-fed us on a daily basis.

Here is an example, two April Fools Days ago, I wrote a spoof column on a dog catcher who was illegally rounding up dogs and selling them to be consumed. The story was so hyperbolic, that most 5th graders would have seen right through it. The reaction I got though was outrage and my managing editor, the police department, and my personal telephone all began to ring off the hook demanding resolution.
My column had pushed their bat-crazy button and comprehension went right out the window. This happened because they read just enough to get ticked off and stopped comprehending altogether. The same thing happened recently when I said crime was my primary concern, not the media-blitzed idea of transgender bathrooms. I read the angry, condescending, and finger-pointing responses with both sadness and moments of reflection. How could people draw their conclusions from what I wrote? The answer is they didn’t. They drew them from their own prejudices and biases.

My column wasn’t an endorsement of transgender bathrooms at all. It was about my personal attitude about what is important to me when I venture out into the city in my car, or enter a store. I worry about people driving their 4000 pound missile through the side of my Jeep because they have their nose glued to a little glowing glass panel instead of the road in front of them.

I worry about someone robbing me at gun point or evading the law in their car and going 70 miles an hour down Garth Road. To me, I have a giant dose of common sense and my preoccupation with avoiding crime has nothing to do with a sign on a bathroom door when I walk into a department store in comparison. To me, this is not even a Christian issue and I am appalled that I would be accused of having no values. For thousands of years, people simply walked into the woods to do their business and for anyone who leaves the sterile environment we call a city, they still do – and there are no signs saying men on the left, women on the right. Using a toilet is using a toilet, nothing more or less.

That last paragraph is rather lengthy and years ago I was directed to write 2 or at most, 3 short sentence paragraphs, because “people cannot comprehend anything longer than that.” Prove me wrong folks. I believe the vast majority of our readers do the math when it comes to comprehending, but the next time you angrily bang out a response to something one of us has written, please take the time to actually read the intent of the writer.

Maybe the real problem is I shouldn’t write about sensitive subjects where people have to actually
Bert Marshall is the owner of and a Baytown resident since 1974. Reach Marshall at


Anonymous said...

Allyce Lankford: Thought provoking! You're a good guy Bert!

Anonymous said...

Caroline Pemberton: I actually had 2 or 3 intelligent professors in Seminary and University that taught something useful. One very useful tool was : " To teach any adult anything you must first pull down their PRECONCEIVED ideas."

Anonymous said...

WC: Damn! I just spent 45 minutes on fb, texting, and messaging. I could have been sleeping. 15 minutes (lol) of that was reading an excellent post by one of Baytown's great columnists, Bert Marshall aka Baytown Bert.

Anonymous said...

Sam Bgh Compton: A reality check. I noticed where I worked, any email requesting two pieces of info only received one in reply. If u can't get ur point across in about 10 seconds, your idea is lost.

Anonymous said...

Julee Denton: "Evlyn Woodhead spid redden course. Increases comprenshun one hunerd purcent."

Anonymous said...

Don Hollaway: Made good marks in this class, but you can't stop to enjoy what your reading

It can only happen while shopping!

As the big man is my witness, every word of this is unquestionable and void of hyperbolic incredibility. With that taken into consid...