How to speed read


In this short video Kris Madden shows you how to read faster. The trick, he says, is to repeatedly say "AEIOU" or "one, two, three, four," as you read. This prevents you from vocalizing the written words with your larynx. Once you train yourself, you can stop uttering "AEIOU," and you will be able to read much faster than before, or so he says.

Scientific speed reading: how to read 300% faster in 20 minutes

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  1. I think after time this will either drive me totally insane or suck away every ounce of joy I have for literature.

  2. I haven’t tried this technique yet, but I noticed long ago during typing class that I could look at a textbook page and type what it said a little more quickly when I recited a memorized monologue that had nothing to do with the typed content. It surprised me that I never got confused and typed the words that I was saying, only the words I was seeing. It probably works with singing or anything else memorized, or just repeating “AEIOU”. It seems to disengage the part of your mind that’s worried about making errors and the typing process, just input taken at the eyes and sent straight to fingers without spending much time understanding the content. If you type by touch, try it sometime.

  3. Do I have to stop moving my lips when I think?

    (I wish it was a joke: I frequently find myself muttering things, out loud, that are going through my head. High embarrassment potential)

  4. I’m not sure I want to read faster. Is there any benefit to shovelling the words in quicker if I can’t think about them any faster?

  5. can somebody explain speed reading to me? what are the limitations?

    how does it work , if you’re reading for comprehension of subjects you’re unfamiliar with (e.g. math/science text books , manuals / design specs)

    thanks.

  6. I’ve found speed reading wonderful for going over something technical and boring or needing to skim something really quick.

    However, it sucks all the joy out of reading for fun. I really enjoy taking my time and digesting the words and letting my imagination run wild.

    I’ll speed read at work, but not at home.

  7. I guess this is okay for some kinds of reading, but not for anything really worth reading. The rhythm of the language is a large part of the aesthetic quality of good writing, for great literature especially. The great writers use vowel tones and consonants like musical notes in their prose. How do you speed read something like this from Joyce’s Dubliners ‘and the coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness’ or Hemingway, ‘and the bull lifted him and then dropped him’. Scanning will show you a little of what those writers are up to. For Joyce, tonal ideograms resonate through extended developments over many pages to help engineer the epiphanies in his fiction. The idea of mumbling 1,2,3,4 to yourself as a habit of reading seems pretty ridiculous to me.

  8. This makes perfect sense for people who still subvocalize the text in front of them. For those who moved past that to visual-only reading, this trick won’t work of course…but such people read twice as fast anyhow.

    Speed reading methods are often designed to enhance the visual tricks you can use for faster input. A fun one is RSVP, rapid serial visual presentation, which flashes a word or a phrase in one spot…like flash cards, but on a computer. Some museum exhibits show this off, and there are web or smartphone apps that will allow you to do this.

  9. All very fine and dandy but how to you slow down your reading speed so that you don’t get frustrated because you can’t turn the pages fast enough to keep up with your reading speed? That’s the trouble with my crowd.

    Interesting that verbalising written material is mentioned as slowing readers down. You mean some people learned to talk before they learned to read? How odd…

  10. I made the mistake of taking a speed reading class at summer school way back when I was 10 or so. I started burning through books in a day which actually was a drawback for me as I was always sad when the book was finished. So I had to start reading books upside down to slow myself down again.

    I was a weird kid.

  11. I guess it is fine if you are reading about cats and dogs chasing each other, but I wouldn’t try it with Hegel.

  12. Many people speed read simply by bringing preconceptions or prejudicial thoughts with them. It’s very effective, but can lead to unexpected and rapid flexing of the patella/femur joint.

  13. My aunt speed reads, she is a retired magazine editor and she has amazed me with this skill for more than 40 years. I have watched her devour three and four hundred page books that I have read in an hour or two and then quizzed her on content and comprehension, usually to my embarrassment. I can saw she still thoroughly enjoys reading and speed reading still serves her well at the state capitol digging through bills where she works as an intern to keep herself amused in her retirement. I am half convinced that she actually runs the state of Wyoming and that the state government is just a prop to keep her involvement hidden, but I am mostly sure that is just paranoia on my part. What I am sure of is that speed reading is a useful mind hack.

  14. It’s for newspapers, reports, memos, and such. All that stuff isn’t about the beauty of the writing, but about getting the information into your brain.

  15. Ha! I thought I was the only person who did the “read upside-down” trick. I started doing it when I realized I could read out loud when I read upside-down books…right-side up I kept missing words.

  16. WETZEL,

    You’ll love this sentence from F. Scotty Fitz…

    “At the moment when he had affirmed immaculate honor a silver pennon had flapped out into the breeze somewhere and there had been the crunch of leather and the shine of silver spurs and a troop of horsemen waiting for dawn on a low green hill.”

  17. I would not try Hegel fast or slow;
    I would not try Hegel in the snow.
    I would not try Hegel in the sun.
    I would not try Hegel for some fun.
    I would not try Hegel on the can.
    I do not like Hegel, Sam I Am.

  18. I had no idea that my larynx was connected to my eyes, or t that it had the necessary nerve structure to process visual and language information! Or that, with training, my eyes could do all the reading themselves!

    Just imagine – with lots of hard work, I could probably get my BRAIN involved! Just think about what I’d be able to do then!

  19. “All very fine and dandy but how to you slow down your reading speed so that you don’t get frustrated because you can’t turn the pages fast enough to keep up with your reading speed? That’s the trouble with my crowd.”

    Literally can’t turn the pages fast enough, eh? Maybe you shouldn’t be reading books in 72 point font? Or perhaps you have the fine motor skills of a sperm whale? Or are a sentient photocopier? The robot from Short Circuit could do it, why not you? WHO IS IN YOUR CROWD?

  20. I find that I sometimes want to turn off my reading ability. Usually standing in line at grocery stores, near the tabloids.

  21. @#19 I am a sentient photocopier. What’s wrong with that?

    PAPER JAM. PLEASE OPEN COVER AND REMOVE PAPER FROM TRAY 2.

    Oh crap…see what you made me do?

  22. So what does that do to retention? Some parallel tasks (such as reciting a-e-i-o-u) can hurt recall. There’s not much percentage in getting to the end of the book in half the time if you don’t remember a word you’ve read.

  23. I found that when I practice speed eating, I can finish meals in a fraction of normal time. The trouble is, most people take the time to TASTE their food. But if you break it into small bits and shove it directly into your throat bypassing the tongue, you’ll have all that food processed away in no time!

    (For those who miss the spoof, a good book is something to be savored, not rushed through as quickly as you can manage.)

  24. this definitely works for me, but he’s not kidding when he says it destroys comprehension until it becomes second nature.

    i don’t know if i have the patience to see it through that far.

  25. Good books are for savouring. For instance, the Dune series by Frank Herbert. Knowing I only had 6 of them to read ( i will not read his sons bastardized 7th) I took my patient time indulging in the story.

    speed reading is for textbooks and technical manuals.

  26. I didn’t realize that most people still subvocalized their speech once they were past their phonics stage. The people I know that still do this tend to be the ones that learned to read later in life.

    That said, I’ve never found that the limiting factor for me in reading was my ability get through the words on the page. I can easily “read” at over 500wpm if I just hear the matchbox-commercial-esque fast talking in my head, but if I actually want to understand anything beyond a vague outline of what I read my speed drops to around 250 wpm.

  27. I agree with most of the commenters above.

    If you’re doing it for money, then by all means get it over with as quickly as possible.

    But if for the sheer pleasure of it, then take your time, savor and enjoy.

    Hmmm…

  28. This is the bible of speed reading, Manya and Eric de Leeuw:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Better-Faster-Manya-Eric-LEEUW/dp/0140207406

    The gist: scan very quickly for cogent text clumps; reread.

    Like WYKLYN, I absorbed this at 16 to get through exam texts faster, and had to train myself back to normal reading to read for pleasure.

    If you’re reading Elmore Leonard say, and you’re not hearing the words in your head, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re reading a translation of some critical theory text in translation and you are, then likewise.

  29. I am an amateur actor, and trying to write my first screenplay.

    I can’t help thinking this would be a really, REALLY bad habit to get into for anyone trying to avoid a tin ear for dialogue. Your scripts would end up looking like… Attack of the Clones, or the pilot of Babylon 5.

  30. I have sped read for as long as I can remember. I found that it allows me to go directly from words on paper to images in my head, bypassing the tedious filter of semantics, vocabulary, letters, typography.

    It allows me to play the movie in my head much more vividly, or to capture the “essence” in my imagination, it is great for adventure books!

    However it is also terrible for detailed, prose-specific readings. It’s not so great with poetry or names, or writings which depend on semantics to get the point across.

    But then, I naturally slow down (and re-read) when I come across brain-heavy texts.

    Walking slow is fine to appreciate what’s around you, but running can also be exhilarating :)!

  31. I have to say that, like #40 marco antonio, after a few minutes of reading I stop seeing the words and am just watching the little movie in my head. However I think I only read about 500 words a minute. It is hard to ever really know how many words a minute I read because when I try to time myself I keep looking at the stopwatch instead of just reading.

    How would you know if your larynx was doing something? Would you feel it? Or hear it? Or is it something that you would need to be hooked up to a machine to detect? Is it some kind of William Burroughs subliminal lingual thing?

    I still think each word when I type because I am a slow typist.

  32. I don’t want to speed-read any more than I want to speed-eat. Much of the pleasure of good writing comes from the mouth-feel of the words, and you could almost say the way the diffrerent flavors (“oo” versus “ck,” for examples) the different consonant and vowel sounds have when vocalized. And it seems to me there is also a better grasp of what is being said if I take in written ideas at a speed close to the speed of speech.

    I’m talking about good writing. Bad writing can be speed-read without much loss of pleasure, since there is (by my definition) little pleasure to be had from bad prose. Then the only thing worth having is the ideas. If the ideas are good but badly written, reading slowly might actually result in more miscomprehension than speed-reading, on the same principle of being able to find the cereal you want in the cereal aisle if you skim the shelves rather than focusing on each box in turn.

  33. I think this is a great idea for our busy, busy lives.

    I eat fast foods, I drive in the fast lane and I send short, fast twitters because emails take too long. I wish everything could be made faster. Why just the other day I was standing in front of the microwave screaming, “Faster, faster! I don’t have all minute!”

    Gotta run.

  34. For those who may be interested, I think I can provide a more detailed account of how the trick works.

    From what I remember about cognitive psychology the trick must change what kind of working memory you use to process written text. When most people read their larynx not only mimmics speaking, but they, also hear the words on the page (which is called sub-vocallization) and then the information is processed through an auditory pathway. When most people read the words are being processed using the audial part of working memory, the phonological loop, rather than the viso-spatial sketch pad, the visual part. This is why many people prefer to read in a quiet place, so that they can better focus on processing the text auditorally when they sub-vocalize the text.

    Although I do not recall learning about this, my best geuess is that people learn to read using the phonological loop because children learn to comprehend spoken language first. Translating visual text into auditory speech makes the text easier to understand for beginning readers.

    Anyways, the trick works by simply occuping your phonological loop by saying something over and over, causing you rely on the visuo-spatial sketch pad and process the information through a visual pathway instead. Eventually this eliminates sub-vocalization of the text while reading, and instead you process text more like an image.

    Compared to using the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketch pad can handle much more information at once, hence you end up reading faster.

  35. I discovered this trick in grad school, in a mildly different form: I get a tune stuck in my head, intentionally.

  36. @#21 Funny out mention this. I’m an early-career academic in continental philosophy, and am a painfully slow reader. I’m not sure how effective or possible speed-reading is when the language is itself the subject – at least that’s what I tell myself when it takes me weeks to trudge through a book.

  37. I don’t want to speed-read any more than I want to speed-eat. Much of the pleasure of good writing comes from the mouth-feel of the words, and you could almost say the way the diffrerent flavors (“oo” versus “ck,” for examples) the different consonant and vowel sounds have when vocalized. And it seems to me there is also a better grasp of what is being said if I take in written ideas at a speed close to the speed of speech.

    I’m talking about good writing. Bad writing can be speed-read without much loss of pleasure, since there is (by my definition) little pleasure to be had from bad prose. Then the only thing worth having is the ideas. If the ideas are good but badly written, reading slowly might actually result in more miscomprehension than speed-reading, on the same principle of being able to find the cereal you want in the cereal aisle if you skim the shelves rather than focusing on each box in turn.

  38. #44/Anonymous is absolutely correct.

    One can “speed read” at any speed — slow or fast. All you are doing is processing the words directly, and breaking the habit of reading out loud to yourself. Thus, you are limited by the speed of your cognition, not the speed of your auditory processing.

    As a lifetime speed reader, I can guarantee that it does not necessarily diminish my enjoyment of books: it simply gives me the option to go faster through the boring parts – if I so choose. I frequently read much more slowly than I *can* read, because I’m enjoying what I’m reading.

    I will use the term “cognitive Luddites” to refer to the large number of people here who fear that bypassing the auditory loop will somehow suck the meaning and enjoyment out of text.

    That being said, there is some prose which benefits from being read out loud – but not much. Most people simply don’t have the facility with language. I’m not willing to suffer the pain of slowly slogging through the 95% of writing that is crap, and the 4% that is good but not exceptional, on the off chance that what I’m reading will be part of the 1%. In those rare cases, I’ll re-read the book or article, savoring the language.

    Seriously: how can you possibly browse the Web without having learned to speed-read? Do people really spend ten minutes reading the article plus 55 comments? Or are they just there to show off how smart they are without having read what anyone else said? (Sadly, I think I’ve just explained most website comments.)

  39. I’ve carefully trained myself to start vocalising what I read again. I’m a scientist and not skilled in reading…..no, no, no, that’s not what I meant. It helps me understand the papers I read (and sometimes what the authors missed), rather than just finishing them. Speedreading sounds like a step backwards, for me at least.

  40. #11, I tried reading (and writing) upside-down too.

    Then I made the mistake of learning to read in mirrors–and ever since, I’ve been plagued with the ability to read the “push” or “pull” signs on the opposite side of glass doors.

  41. #44 is right.
    Speed reading is very useful, especially for University if you hear ten times a week the sentence “And for next week read pages 97-212”. With speed reading you can do this small-print pages in less then an hour. The same goes for news etc.

    But if you really have to “learn” something, you should read it slow. Then you have both visual and audio processing, and that goes deeper in your brain ;)
    And of course, if the text if for enjoyment, you have much less of it if you read it like some yellow press paper.

  42. My girlfriend and I screamed at the end of this clip – Math Crazy in huge MS Comic Sans? It was just like being RickRolled! :P

  43. Wow, I had no idea anyone sub-vocalized when they read.

    I read very quickly, but even when I try to slow down for difficult passages in knotty writing, I don’t sub-vocalize. I’ll have to try it. But for regular reading? I think it would slow me down to the point of boredom, to be honest.

  44. @ 45 Hmm. I was just sitting here wondering why it is that so many folks seem to read at approx. the speed of speech, while I’ve always read at the speed of a glance without having to mumble 1,2,3… But then you mentioned this trick you’d discovered of getting songs intentionally stuck in your head to help you read faster. Now what I’m wondering is: Could the non-stop MP3 that Nature wired in my noggin (wouldn’t want to live without it) have something to do with it?

  45. Video doesn’t work — I see about 1 second of some ad, and “Video after this ad”, and then it just freezes.

  46. After reading about them here, I downloaded an RSVP app to my ipod touch, and found the weirdest thing: I could read the words fine, as they flashed in front of me one at a time at 275 wpm, but I read them in a perfect monotone. I mean, all the dialogue appeared in my head like it was coming from Stephen Hawking or a robot. A mean, cold, unloving robot.
    I don’t understand this at all. It was horrible. But am also kind of fascinated by it. I’m sure it means something about the way we read, or the way I read, but I don’t know what.

  47. I am a horribly slow reader.

    This trick didn’t work for me.

    What did was just scanning without turning on the auditory 1,2,3,4 or a,e,i,o,u. Saying the mundane repeatables was worse than reading in a noisy room.

  48. Great video, but I think you may have miscalculated something: at 1200 words per minute, it will take you roughly 60 minutes, not the stated ten, to get through the 73,404 word “Catcher in the Rye.” I’d definitely like to see the technique to get my reading up to 12000 wpm!

  49. @57
    You might want to try disabling any ad-block programs you have running. Sometimes an ad-block will not allow you to watch a video if it is required to watch an add beforehand.

  50. Coincidentally saw this apropos Richard Feynman video about how different people use different parts of the brain for counting, reading, etc.

    Steve

  51. I just want to say thank you to #44/Anonymous, August 10, 2009 6:23 PM

    For those who may be interested, I think I can provide a more detailed account of how the trick works. From what I remember about cognitive psychology the trick must change what kind of working memory you use to process written text. When most people read their larynx not only mimmics speaking, but they, also hear the words on the page (which is called sub-vocallization) and then the information is processed through an auditory pathway.

    This explains a lot to me – both in how I read and process words and about the vocalization mentioned here. I knew that the idea of reading silently was relatively recent but I had no idea most people ‘sounded’ the words. I don’t and have therefore never understood how these speed reading tips were supposed to work and so usually ignored them.

  52. Thank you #44 & #48. I, too, was going to say that speed reading isn’t something you have to use all the time. Most comment threads I skim and speed through, pausing on the nuggets of insight. Some content is meant for rushing, and some is not. Without the right tools, you’ll have to slog through all content equally slow.

  53. This was “eye opening.” Does this guy have a website or a book or something? I tried looking for other programs to get a better feel for speed reading. Best one I could find was “rev-it-up-reading.” The tips on the website alone are good. Anyone else know of other programs?

  54. #66: I found a good one called “The Speed Reading Manual”. Google it and it’ll come up first.

  55. Thanks for posting my video. After much request I’ve published a complete 366-page workbook on speed reading. It’s available for free download at my website: krismadden.com and will be available for paperback and kindle purchase later this week. Hope everyone enjoys.

    -Kris Madden

  56. There are a ton of different techniques to learn how to speed read. I learned on a program called EyeQ and another called QuickEye 3.1. They are both software programs, but the second one came with a book that talked about the technique above. They called it counting while you read.

    There’s also a lot more really easy things to while learning how to read that help improve you Words per Minute. Beyond the counting or AEIOU, you can use hand techniques, breathing, posture, concentration, and a ton of other exercises that can really help you train your eyes to move faster. This was all in the QuickEye program. I’m not sure where there website is, but just google it and you can find it.

    It’s so hard to get used to now saying the words in your head, but this does appear to be the best way to learn how. Thank for posting the video, and all the comments above were pretty fun to read.

  57. When I’m reading a very emotional book, sometimes I like to just stop and think about it all. Speed-reading would not help this at all. I want to savor the words and sentences.

  58. Apparently, a side effect of speed reading is uncontrollable sarcasm. Perform at your own risk.

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