I have to do a lot of reading during the course of my day, so I would like to increase the speed at which I read. What are some good ways to do this?

I've tried "skipping between words" and "spending less time on each word", but I understand less of what I read when I do that.

closed as off-topic by Mooseman Jun 3 '15 at 17:59

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • ""Mind hacks" are off topic — Questions dealing with personal productivity and self-improvement tips, with memorization, learning techniques, etc. are outside the scope of this site." – Mooseman
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  • Personal experience, reading faster is an experience thing, read more and you'll read faster. Also, the type of reading matters in speed, my speed reading a textbook versus reading Harry Potter are significantly different. – Doug Watkins Jun 3 '15 at 1:32
  • SE also has a Productivity site. I don't know for sure, but your question might be on topic there. Check it out! – Sue Jun 3 '15 at 21:46

Speed reading is all about how you move your eyes. Using your periferal vision, there are patterns you can train your eyes to follow that will help you read faster while not sacrificing comprehension. The great thing about this method is you don't need any software or any extra "parts".

(I'm going to be using diagrams throughout this post: the red "highlights" over the text represent the position of of your eyes when you read each word. Let me know in the comments if this makes sense.)

Word by word:

Beginner readers focus their eyes on each individual word. This technique works, but it's a lot slower than it could be. People who use this method often read aloud, or use their finger to track their position in the text (they can do this because they are reading word-by-word).

Word by word reading technique diagram.

Reading "in clumps"

Better readers don't skip words, they read multiple words at the same time using their peripheral vision:

Chunk reading method diagram.

Here's another demonstration of this technique (from IrisReading.com):

Chunk method practice example.

This text was originally a large paragraph, but the tutorial split it up into three columns. Using their peripheral vision, most people will be able to read the group of words in each column (in each line) using one glance. When the text isn't broken up into columns, readers can still use this technique by focusing on clumps of words instead of individual words.

Using peripheral vision allows readers to read more words while spending less time moving their eyes between each word. Thus, this technique dramatically increases reading speeds.

Advanced (impossible): reading entire lines at once:

This is theoretically possible, but I've never seen someone use it. The idea is that if your peripheral vision is wide enough, you could be able to read an entire line in one glance. Most people will not be able to do this.

Peripheral reading technique diagram.

Putting these techniques into practice.

Half the battle is just being aware of how your eyes move when you read. When you read an article (on paper would be best, for learning purposes), try to pay attention to how your eyes focus.

The next step is to train your eyes to use the more efficient motions. You can do this just by making a conscious effort to read in specific ways (which words for me), or you could use a pencil beforehand to indicate focal points for your eyes when practising (e.g. if you are using the "in clumps" method, draw a visual cue every three words to attract your eyes to that spot).

  • I'm out of practice now as I don't read fiction these days (you can't speed read technical documents). However, I can vouch for reading an entire line at once as possible to do. However, rather than reading one line at a time I found it more 'comfortable' to scan across two lines at the same time. This means your eyes move less fast and with practice your brain somehow rejumbles the words to put the top line before the second. I did it but I don't know how it works - but it does! – Bendy Jun 3 '15 at 18:51
  • You would be surprised how your eyes actually move when reading, they are quite a bit more active then you think. So it is interesting that smooth pursuit behaviour allows you take in more, does it lower the incidence of saccades thus somehow allowing quicker comprehension due to less out time. – jCisco Sep 26 '15 at 15:24

The place where people "waste" the most time reading is moving their eyes from word to the next. Spritz is an app that flashes words on-at-a-time onto a small screen, which means that your eyes don't waste time moving between words.

Spritz speed reading software.

You can try it online, or you can use it with various software (they even have a free bookmarklet). An less original alternative exists in spreeder.

  • I heard about this and think it's pretty cool. Anyways, I think this is not a hack for reading faster but promotes a certain service. Although it's still an outside-the-box-thinking solution to reading line after line - that's why I'm not flagging it and am waiting for a moderator to decide. – Alex Jun 3 '15 at 7:09
  • I've tried this. It definitely could work for some situations, but there are significant drawbacks. It takes a lot of focus though and I get tired more easily, and need to take more breaks. I ended up stop using it because it fails to show different fonts, symbols, and headers, which help organize a book and improve your understanding. – imagineerThat Oct 27 '18 at 18:11