Speed Reading: 10 Habits that Hurt Your Reading Speed

by Speed Reading Expert, Richard L. Feldman, Ph.D. (Columbia University)

I’ve been teaching speed reading courses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut for twenty-five years. I often find that participants entering my speed reading course have a variety of faulty reading habits that reduce their reading speed and reading comprehension. Here are the most common ones.

10 Faulty Reading Habits

1. Reading Late at Night
This is commonly done by college students, especially with their textbooks. This is the least effective time to read for many people, and results in poor concentration, a slow reading rate, and reduced reading comprehension.

2. Reading Without a Specific Purpose
If you don’t have a specific purpose for reading the material, your mind will wander and your reading speed and comprehension will be reduced. Are you reading for main ideas or for details?

3. Reading in the Wrong Environment
If you read in bed, don’t be surprised when you fall asleep while reading. Is the room warm? Do you have soft music in the background? These will all hurt your reading.

4. Reading Again What You’ve Just Read
This is known as “regression” and not only hurts your reading speed, but makes reading an unpleasant task.

5. Reading By Saying the Words in Your Head
This is known as “subvocalization.” Effective readers don’t read words inside their heads; they read with little or no subvocalization.

6. Reading Everything at the Same Speed
A common faulty habit. Some materials must be read faster than others. In other words, you must be flexible with your reading speed.

7. Reading Details Before Main Ideas
Without reading main ideas first, known as skimming or surveying, it is much more difficult to understand the organization of what you are reading and to assimilate the details in your memory.

8. Reading with a Yellow Highlighter
One of the least effective ways to do your reading and studying, highlighting creates a false sense of security that you really understood what you highlighted. The result: A second reading is almost always required.

9. Reading Everything Line by Line
While some materials must be read line by line, the majority of materials require a combination of skimming, scanning, and line by line reading. Without combining reading techniques, your reading is almost guaranteed to be slow and your comprehension reduced.

10. Reading Without Time Limits
Giving yourself unlimited time to complete your reading results in inefficient reading and mind wandering. In fact, allowing yourself too much time will not only reduce your reading speed but your reading comprehension as well.

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