Enhancing Online Reading

We print information in blocks like this post. We traditionally write and print this way – blocks or by paragraph. But a research indicates that the human brain is not “wired” to read text in the traditional way we print it, which is in blocks.

A company called Walker Reading Technologies, conducted scientific research that would revolutionize online publication and reading. The study concluded that “the natural field of focus for our eyes is circular, so our eyes view the printed page as if we’re peering through a straw.” [1]

vstf.jpgEvery time we read block text, we’re forcing our brain to a wage a constant subconscious battle with itself to filter and discard the superfluous inputs. This mental tug of war slows reading speed and diminishes comprehension. [2]

The ideal format is a series of short, cascading phrases that look really odd but are easier for the human brain to comprehend. The next paragraph is lifted from my previous post.

Expertise on Active X, CGI, DHTML, HTML 4, Perl, Java Script and others will be helpful for technical writer but not necessarily important. It always depends on the specific tasks needed by your organization. [3]

Following the research findings, the paragraph above is better read and understood if it is presented as follows:

Expertise on Active X,
CGI,
DHTML,
HTML 4,
Perl,
Java Script and others
will be helpful
for technical writer
but not necessarily important.
It always depends
on the specific tasks needed
by your organization.

Walker Reading Technologies designed a product that reformats text in this manner automatically. Researches have proven improved test scores by putting tests in this new format. A major textbook publisher also has contracted Walker Research for help with online textbooks. Reading Online of International Reading Association published results of its research, “Visual-Syntactic Text Formatting: A New Method to Enhance Online Reading”. [4]

Its abstract reads:

A new process, visual-syntactic text formatting (VSTF), transforms block-shaped text into cascading patterns that help readers identify grammatical structure. The new method integrates converging evidence from educational, visual, and cognitive research, and is made feasible through computer-executed algorithms and electronic displays. Among college readers, the VSTF method instantly increased reading comprehension and efficiency of reading online text, while reducing eyestrain. Among high school students, who read with the format over an entire academic year, the VSTF method increased both academic achievement and long-term reading proficiency by more than a full standard deviation over randomized controls. [5]

I am skeptical about company-conducted research though – especially if the company sells product. However, I understand that it is widely practiced. The theory of visual-syntactic text formatting is still very interesting.

Who knows,
one day,
we will deliver
our online documents
in this format.

A Filipino blog called Bulaang Katotohanan [6], posts using the visual-syntactic text formatting (VSTF) principle.

[1] [2] VentureBeat Live Ink offers better way to read text online
[3] third wave Footnote to aspiring Technical Writer
[4] [5] Reading Online Visual-Syntactic Text Formatting: A New Method to Enhance Online Reading
[6] Blog Bulaang Katotohanan

______________________________________________
Jerry G. Gervacio|Mandaue City|Contact: Send Mail
Blog I author (Bisaya): Ambot Lang!
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4 thoughts on “Enhancing Online Reading

  1. with such a factual finding on effective reading, there will be battles between catering the human mind and optimizing the cost of design, since cutting the lines of text in such a way would mean more space and lines, thus more pages to consume🙂

    batang buotan says:
    Thank you.
    I agree. And it will take time before companies adopt VSTF. Imagine an e-book written in such way. Too long. There are researches claiming that online users don’t really read but gaze online – meaning their attention span is so short that they won’t even (sometimes) notice the information. By using VSTF, the site can at least make reading comfortable (to some but there are those who find it messy) at the same time can feed information to reader in a snap.

  2. interesting. i believe in this. it works for me. specially upon reading and making notes on those voluminous supreme court decisions.

    batang buotan says:
    Thank you.
    researches support the contention that visual-syntactic text formatting improve the scores of the students. still there is a debate, as presented by dimaks on “…between catering the human mind and optimizing the cost of design, since cutting the lines of text in such a way would mean more space and lines, thus more pages to consume”

  3. Pingback: Elvis

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