Speed-reading for Writers

Speed-reading for Writers

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There are a few different speed-reading methods. What they all have in common is that, once you’ve learned a method, you can read twice as fast but comprehend half as much.

It’s debatable whether the lost comprehension is important. Most paragraphs make a single point. If you get the point, does it really matter if you caught all the details? I’ve read a few speed-reading books and use their methods off and on. I’d like to share what I’ve gotten out of books about reading.

Choosing Books

This first tip is about discovering what books to skip entirely. It will give you more time for worthwhile books. Before buying a book, here’s what you should look at.

Read the front and back covers. Still interested? Read the table of contents? Still look good? Read the introductory material quickly. The first line of each paragraph will do. If you’re still interested, read the first few pages and see if you like the author’s writing style. If a book passes all these tests, it’s worth buying. You’ve just eliminated books you won’t finish.


Skipping parts of books should come naturally. If you don’t already do so, I’m sure you have a good idea what can be skipped.

In non-fiction, reading the first paragraph on a topic tells you whether you already know what follows. If you do, skip to the next section. I used this in university and got high marks in most of my courses except for a few required courses that didn’t interest me.

In fiction, most writers have descriptions, digressions, long conversations, and other material that doesn’t do anything for the story. You can skip ahead to where the author gets back on track.


The best way to explain speed-reading is to let an expert explain it. Here’s a YouTube video that teaches the basics.

The average person’s reading comprehension, without speed-reading is 55%. You need to read a book twice if you want to learn everything in it. Speed-readers would need to read it four times to get it all. Is that an issue? It depends on how much you want to get from a book. If you’re just looking for an overview on a topic, one fast read may be all you need.

Your comprehension level is not set in stone. It can be improved. At the start of the above video, I discovered my normal reading speed was the faster speed people had 30 years ago. When I took the Graduate Record Exam, my comprehension level was 53%. It appears that with practice speed-reading comprehension can go back up to normal. (Yes. I’m aware the GRE score is not a match for how much was understood.)

Studies and Research

Speed-reading is a great help when you must go over the same material several times. In most courses, you will get the best outcome if you read the material as it’s taught, when there’s a test, and for exams. That’s a lot of reading. It pays to read faster. You can skip material you know well, speed-read when you’re not certain and slow down for the sections where you’re still lost.

Well researched writing is the best writing. Researching is the same as studying. Speed-read or skip material you already know and slow down when you find something new.

I bookmarked the video above because it’s already helped me read faster. I hope it does the same for you.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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