The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading (2008)

Part III. Tuning Up Your Speed

Chapter 12. Speed Reading On Screen

In This Chapter

• Reading on paper versus reading on screen

• On screen speed reading strategies

• Using pacers on screen

• Ergonomic suggestions for keeping your eyes happy

• Tips for reducing paper waste

The amount and range of information available online or as digital text can be overwhelming and at the same time gratifying. You can access a targeted selection of the Internet’s millions of websites in the time it used to take to open one drawer of the library’s card catalog. When you’ve found the information you’re looking for online, the question then becomes: How are you going to read it? Will you print it out or read it online? And how can you read it fast if you read it on screen?

This chapter shows you how to adapt many of the speed strategies you have already learned for use when reading electronic text. Understanding why on screen reading is different and knowing how you can read it more efficiently can help you not only speed read on screen, but also read more comfortably, too.

What’s Different About Reading On Screen

For many people, reading a document printed on paper is easier, faster, more familiar, and more comfortable than reading on a computer screen, but that’s changing. Improvements in display technology, increases in the number of people who own or use computers, and the decrease in the age at which people start reading from a computer screen all affect the way people read digital text. If you’re one of the stragglers, worried that you’ll never be comfortable reading on screen or concerned that you won’t be able to speed read on screen, rest assured you can efficiently, effectively, and comfortably handle the increased demands for reading on a computer screen while also reducing reliance on printed materials.

Keep in mind that online speed reading includes not only how fast you can read each word, but also how quickly you can …

• Access and sift through huge amounts of digital information.

• Process and evaluate the accuracy of that data.

• Communicate it in the right form to the right people.

Reading Is Reading Is Reading …

The process of reading follows the same fundamental steps whether on paper, on a computer screen, on a stone slab, or on a billboard. On a simple level, your eyes look at the letters that make up the words. Then your brain attempts to make meaning of the words. It sounds simple, but you may have noticed the profound difference you feel when you read online, and with good reason.

Critical differences exist when it comes to reading from a screen versus reading from paper. These differences alter the process and experience of reading.

Making Your On-Screen Text Look Good

How text on a screen is formatted effects how you read it. If the letters are placed too closely together, with very little white space between the letters, words, or lines, it’s much harder to read. Increasing the white space between lines to double or 1.5 spaces makes for more readability than single spacing.

In the following paragraph, for example, the overall density of the text makes it more difficult to read. It’s even more difficult to decipher when reading digital text.

An estimated 25,000 tattoos later, Hellenbrand recognizes how far she has drifted from her original art.“I’m not a good paper artist anymore.It isn’t demanding enough for me. It’s not nearly as thrilling. When I get on the skin, that when I become the artist. Skin is my medium.”

The text margins can also affect how we read. Fully justified text, where both left and right margins are in a line tends to look better, but it’s more difficult to read because it can distort the amount of white space in a line. (In addition to the full justified text in the following paragraph, the spacing between lines is set at 1.5, which increases legibility.)

An estimated 25,000 tattoos later, Hellenbrand recognizes how far she has drifted from her original art. I’m not a good paper artist anymore. It isn’t demanding enough for me. It’s not nearly as thrilling. When I get it on the skin, that’s when I become the artist. Skin is my medium.”

Left justification, where the left text margin is in line and the right margin is “ragged” (like this book and most printed documents) is the easiest to read. To facilitate faster reading on screen, left justify your reading materials when you can and set your line spacing to 1.5.

The length of a line of text on a computer screen also impacts your reading speed. Oddly enough, the optimum line length for reading speed is not always the line length people prefer to read. You read faster when the line of text is approximately 10 inches wide, but most people often prefer lines between 4 and 6 inches. On the other hand, lines that are too short (narrower than 2.4 inches) can slow you down. Experiment with line lengths when you can to discover your preference.

When reading continuous text, you can read easier and faster if the text is a combination of upper and lowercase letters instead of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS because mixing cases creates a more distinctive word shape. When it comes to writing e-mails, USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IS JUST BAD MANNERS. READERS OFTEN FEEL AS THOUGH THE AUTHOR IS YELLING.

The Skinny on Fonts

The size and shape of a font can effect how quickly and efficiently you read on screen. One of the most frequently used fonts for printed matter is Times New Roman, a serif font, while the most readable fonts for on screen text are typically sans serif fonts. The straight, well-formed characters of sans serif fonts display more clearly on screen, improving the legibility of displayed text and, therefore, on screen reading speeds.


A font is a family of digital lettering and characters. Fonts are grouped into two categories: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts have little lines or tails as a part of the letters. Times Roman, Courier, and Palatino are serif fonts. Sans serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, and Geneva do not have the small lines or tails at the ends of characters.

Improvements in font design as well as monitor technology have helped textual displays more closely reflect reading paper documents. These advances help improve on screen reading comfort, experience, and ability.

The size at which the font is displayed also plays a role in reading speed and efficiency. The most readable font size depends on several factors:

• Your vision

• Your angle to the screen

• The font

In general, anything smaller than 10 point is too small to read at a comfortable distance from the screen. Anything larger than 18 point may be too large and may give the reader a sense that they’re being shouted at. On average, 12-point font is the most widely used and preferred.

Font color can be used quite effectively to aid the reading process; however, what’s pleasing to one reader might not be pleasing to another. Typically, dark text on a light background such as black or navy on white or gray is more readable. Any textured background makes the text placed on it less readable.

Play with all these presentation elements in your word processing program to help determine what works best for you because being aware of the physical appearance of on screen text, and changing it when possible, is a great way to increase your on screen reading speed.

Speed Tip

Some speed reading software programs offer the perfect opportunity for you to practice your speed reading skills. They’re also a great place for adjusting the physical appearance of text to determine what display layouts work best for you. Free programs like Zap Reader ( and Spreeder ( enable you to set the physical appearance of text as well as the speed the text is displayed. If you want a program that offers more functionality, try AceReader’s ( 30-day free trial version or The Reader’s Edge ( online demo version.

Adapting Paper Strategies to Screen

The best way to approach your on screen reading is armed with the same arsenal of reading techniques you use for your print reading. You will, however, need to slightly modify some of them.

You’ve probably realized that having a plan of attack for your reading is a critical element when trying to read quickly and efficiently. This is even more important when reading on screen. It’s important to not only clearly define why you’re reading something; you also need to define how long you’ll spend on a given item. This is especially true online, where so much information competes for our attention.

To develop your on screen reading prowess, consider the following ideas.

Speed Secret

Having a strategy for reading your on-screen materials as well as the tools to speed up your reading are two of the best ways to block out online distractions.

Preview Your Digital Documents

Similar to cheat reading, the purpose of a preview is to gather as much information about the topic as possible without getting bogged down by the details. Most online documents are nonfiction in nature, making this strategy useable. You’re primarily looking for the main ideas so you have a mental framework upon which to hang details if you choose to read the article in full.

Here are some preview tips:

• Look at any preliminary information, including the source, the author, the title, the date, and any introductory material.

• Scroll through the document and read the first paragraph, which is the introduction; the first sentences of each paragraph following; and the last paragraph, which is typically the conclusion.

• Be aware of advertising and unrelated links.

• Note anything that’s highlighted, bold, italicized, or in some way made to stand out from the rest of the text—but only if it has to do with the immediate topic. You can ignore banner advertisements.

Speed Tip

If the article is spread out over many screens, check to see if theres a print-friendly version or view of the entire document. You dont need to print it, but itll be easier to preview and read on screen and might be void of any advertising, which is a definite plus.

Previewing the material gives you the main points of the article, without cluttering up your mind with details. You can then decide if you need to read the whole article.

Store Your Keepers

To effectively store articles, create folders using broad categories. Add and label subfolders with effective titles so you’ll be able to easily find the information you need. Your category folder headings will ideally have enough scope to include several articles but shouldn’t be so broad that you could put everything in them.

If you’re exploring different home improvement projects, you might create one electronic folder titled “Home Improvement.” Within this main folder, you might create subfolders with titles such as “Wall Coverings,” “Plumbing,” “Patio,” “Room Makeovers,” etc. If you are simply saving links to websites that demonstrate particular techniques, interesting colors or patterns, or complete project how-to’s, create folders as part of your favorites in your Internet browser.

If you already have a lot of articles in one folder and want to organize them better for easier retrieval, try this:

1. Look at each article title and write down what broad category(ies) it might belong to.

2. Look at the category list and consolidate even more if possible.

3. Create folders with these category names and file articles in subfolders accordingly.

4. Make copies of the articles if they truly belong in one or more categories.

Speed Tip

If you want, fast-forward to Chapter 14 and take a look at the LATCH concept. It can help you keep your keepers— and find them again!

Taking Notes On Screen

Taking notes on material while reading on a computer screen can be tricky. The biggest questions, as with taking notes on hard-copy material, is “What do I write?” and “How do I write it?”

To remember and find relevant information, it’s important, particularly for research reading, to store information in an organized manner and to document the sources of electronic information immediately.

Having an organized approach to your computer note-taking can save you a lot of time if you set up a folder designed to hold only information on the given research topic and restrict the contents to relevant information.

Knowing the documentation style for your given research also helps. Here are some common ones:

• Associated Press (AP)

• American Medical Association (AMA)

• American Psychological Association (APA)

• Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

• Modern Language Association (MLA)

Speed Bump

Thanks to the copy and paste function, people tend to copy entire passages rather than gleaning the most important elements from a given document. Once copied and pasted into a new document, or downloaded and saved to your hard drive, information is often lost or forgotten entirely.

Be sure to gather all the relevant source information from any source you look at (even if you don’t use it later) because it will help you avoid re-researching. Include this information with the information you save in your folder. If your research requires a “Works Cited” page, you might want to create a separate document in the folder and update it as you go.

You can also save the entire document. Then, when you read the document and take notes on it, save it as another document. In other words, keep the original intact and save a second copy on which you can highlight selected passages, write your comments, and generally respond to the material—electronically, of course. This way you can keep track of what information you want to use and how you want to use it (while avoiding inadvertent plagiarism).

Speed Tip

If an article you’re reading on screen is a Microsoft Word document, you can make comments or notes in the margin with Word’s Comment function. If you’re reading a PDF file, you can also annotate it if you have Adobe Acrobat. Some programs have an AutoSummarize feature that automatically summarizes your document into an executive-type summary. If you have a nonchangeable document, you can use the full notes idea from Chapter 9, either on paper or by creating your own Word document, to hold ideas. File this notes document with the article on your computer. Look over your software to see what capabilities are available for you to work with.

Avoid Getting Sucked In

Following irrelevant links when reading online can become a big time waster. When you follow link upon link, you can easily lose sight of what you initially started looking for. It’s essential to have a clear purpose in mind and to have a plan or strategy for your reading—especially online reading. It can get a little confusing if you follow several links to different articles, even if they’re relevant. Try to stay on topic and finish one article before jumping off to another— even if you only preview the initial article.

Speed Tip

Much of the reading you do on-screen, especially on the Internet, may not require detailed reading. Keep in mind that you can use skimming, scanning, or skipping effectively online, too!

When you’re conducting online research, you’ll likely have several online sessions. Remember to define your reason why before each session and do your best to stick to it.

Hands-Free On-Screen Pacing

In Chapter 2, I introduced to you the pacers, a series of hand and card methods for reading on paper. When you’re reading on a computer screen, using a pacer can be more challenging. It would be impractical and uncomfortable to use your hand or a white card to follow the text on screen!

The following sections present some effective techniques that rely on computer technology to help you smooth out your eye movements for reading efficiently and effectively on screen.

The Highlighting Pacer

The following suggestion works best with Microsoft Word documents and others in “Read Only” mode. The pacing method works particularly well when you’re tired. You won’t necessarily read faster in the reverse text (white letters on a dark background), but it will help you keep your place.

To use this pacer …

1. Move your mouse pointer to the left of the target text. (The right side works, too, but highlighting from the left side ensures you get the start of the line, too.)

2. When you see a tilted arrow, click and hold your left mouse button and slowly drag your mouse down as you read. The text will continue to be highlighted until you click somewhere else to remove it.

3. Move your mouse down as you finish reading a line of text, keeping the mouse button pressed to keep the text highlighted.

Additionally, in many word-processing programs, when you double-click a word, the word is highlighted. If you’re interrupted when you’re reading a digital document, simply double-click the word where you stopped reading to highlight it. Then you can immediately return to where you left off when you’re able to resume reading. Talk about a time-saver!

Speed Bump

Because you’re highlighting all the text in your document, you run the risk of accidentally deleting all your text! Be sure your document is in “Read Only” mode, or use it carefully— and/or know how to use your Undo button!

The Scrolling Pacer

Many computer mice these days are equipped with a scroll wheel, or a button you can navigate with your finger to scroll up or down in the document. Take advantage of this technology to help you pace through your reading. Simply roll the ball to advance the text.

If you want to set the text to scroll automatically, simply click the ball and move your mouse down or up to control the speed and direction of the scrolling text. When the speed is set, you can take your hand off the mouse, sit back, relax, and read.

Speed Tip

If your mouse scrolls faster or slower than you want, you can change it. Whether you’re on a Mac or PC, you can probably adjust the speed of the mouse in the System Preferences (Mac) or Control Panel (PC).

Using Your Cursor as a Pacer

Using your cursor as a pacer is similar to running your fingers under a line of text when you’re reading printed text—much like Long-Smooth Underline and Short-Smooth Underline (see Chapter 2). It’s likely to be the pacer that produces the most noticeable speed results.

When using your cursor as a pacer, it’s important to hold your mouse gently and keep your arm supported in some way, such as on a table or desk. You might want to use a wrist support, too.

Here’s how it works:

1. With your mouse, guide your cursor directly under the line of text you’re reading.

2. “Underline” by moving your cursor under the center two-thirds of the line of text—especially when the line of text is long.

3. Read all the text, using your peripheral vision to read the third of the line of text you aren’t specifically underlining with your cursor.

4. When you move your cursor to the next line, you can move your cursor faster because, at this stage, you’re not reading.

5. When you’ve finished reading the screen of text, use your keyboard’s page down button to advance to the next full screen of text.

Speed Tip

When using your cursor as a pacer, if you’re using a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can roll the text forward as you continue to read rather than paging forward.

Using this pacing method serves the dual purpose of keeping your eyes moving in a directed pattern and helps you keep your place on a line of text, which is often even more difficult when you’re reading on screen.

The Line-by-Line Pacers

The Line-by-Line Pacer methods are similar to the hardcopy pacing method of placing a blank white card above or under the line of text you’re reading (see Chapter 2); using Line-by-Line on your computer screen provides a straight edge that serves as a guide for your eyes. You can use this method in two ways: Line-by-Line Top or Line-by-Line Bottom.

The Line-by-Line Top pacing method is like placing a white card above a line of text in a book you’re reading. The card helps block out text that you’ve already read so your eyes can’t wander back up to reread. For Line-by-Line Top:

1. Position the first line of the text you’re reading at the top of your screen. This straight edge serves as a guide for your eyes.

2. Advance through the text by clicking one line at a time with your mouse in the scroll bar, using the down arrow on your keyboard, or scrolling with your mouse. The text you read goes “into the black,” preventing you from rereading it.

The Line-by-Line Top method is most useful when …

• Eye-regression is a problem.

• Reading easier materials.

• Reading a narrow line of text.

• Skimming.

The Line-by-Line Bottom pacing method is like placing a white card below a line of text in a book you’re reading. The card helps keep your place but allows for rereading if necessary. For Line-by-Line Bottom:

1. Position the first line of the text you’re reading at the bottom of your screen. This straight edge serves as a guide for your eyes.

2. Advance through the text by clicking one line at a time with your mouse in the scroll bar, using the down arrow on your keyboard, or scrolling with your mouse. The text you read is like movie credits rolling from the bottom of the screen to the top.

The Line-by-Line Bottom method helps …

• Keep your place in your reading.

• Encourage active regression, allowing quick glances back when necessary, without having to scroll.

• When reading dense or difficult text.

• When reading wider lines of text.

Using pacers when reading on screen can feel a little awkward at first, but with some practice, it can significantly increase your reading speed as well as your concentration and comprehension.

Getting Your Eyes Comfortable

Your eye’s comfort level when you’re reading can be a key factor when deciding whether or not to read text electronically or print it and read it on paper. Following are some useful ergonomic suggestions for keeping your eyes comfortable for reading on screen:

• Remember to go for regular eye exams. This is the first and most important element of keeping your eyes healthy.

• Take a break away from the computer screen every 30 to 60 minutes. This helps prevent visual fatigue, rather than repair it. If you wait until your eyes are really tired, they’ll take longer to feel relief. Because computer users have limited eye movements while working on a computer, it’s important to stretch your eye muscles on a regular basis.

• Place your monitor approximately 18 to 28 inches from your eyes.

• Position the top of the screen slightly below eye level. Bifocal wearers should have the screen top slightly lower.

• Use a paper document holder. Place it the same distance from your eyes and parallel to your monitor. Well-lit documents on the same parallel plane as your head minimize reflections and maximize legibility of print.

• Avoid glare and reflections. Place the screen at a right angle to windows and between overhead lights. When using a computer, the lighting should be about half the lighting used in a regular office setting. Try closing the drapes or blinds at high-glare times, and use fewer or lower-intensity lightbulbs. You can also try anti-glare screens or computer hoods to reduce glare and reflections or have an anti-reflective coating applied to your glasses.

• Adjust the brightness, contrast, and color on your monitor. The brightness of the environment and the computer screen should be similar. The contrast between the background and on screen characters should be high.

• Keep screen and eyeglasses clean. Use natural eye lubricants, when needed.

• Remember to use the eye relaxation strategies in Chapter 3.


Ergonomics is the science of workplace design factors that maximize productivity and minimize a worker’s fatigue and discomfort.

Speed Secret

According to a study done at Cornell University, workers using computer reminders to take short rests and stretch breaks are more productive and 13 percent more accurate in their work than workers who were not reminded and who did not take breaks.

As you continue to read more digital text, you’ll realize that there’s more to on screen reading than meets the eye.

Strategies for Going Paperless (or at Least Printing Less)

Everyone’s “going green” these days, reducing their impact on the earth and the environment. You can, too, while still maintaining your goal for reading with speed and comprehension.

Some of the following rules were inspired by “Pulp Free,” a digital column by Karl De Abrew at Planet PDF—my guru when it comes to doing it paperless! This guy didn’t stop at reducing his paper usage; he claims to have eliminated it completely! While it might be hard to believe, De Abrew does not own a printer, fax, or photocopier.

De Abrew eliminated paper cold turkey a number of years ago, using most of the following eight rules. But for those of you who have one foot in print and the other in digital text, you have an escape hatch—you don’t have to quit cold turkey like De Abrew did. The first three rules will do a lot to get you on your way to reducing your paper consumption. The next five are harder and more expensive:

Rule 1: If you can’t go completely paperless, set a standard for when you will print—and stick to it. In general, people print anything over 2 pages long (or print simply because they always have). Not only does excessive printing kill trees and waste natural resources, it also wastes your time and resources.

Speed Tip

When you finish your e-mail or Internet research and have printed everything, you then have deal with the pile of paper sitting in your printer tray. Consider this a duplication of effort and a waste of precious time. The first step to reducing your dependence on printed materials is to be aware of your current printing habits. Cut it in half: if you normally print anything more than 2 pages long, set a new rule of only printing items more than 4 or 5 pages. After a couple weeks, set a new limit to printing only those items that are more than 8 or 10 pages long.

Rule 2: Do it yourself. Respond to your own e-mails—without printing them. In some business environments, people routinely print all their e-mails. In some cases, bosses might then hand-write the replies and have a secretary or assistant e-mail the responses. Of this practice, De Abrew says, “In this Brave New World, there should be no worker (executive or otherwise) too pompous to directly respond to their own messages. Modern businesses simply shouldn’t pay for this kind of duplication. By handling your business interactions in bits and bytes, you’ll save dollars and cents.” I don’t believe this practice of duplication is one of pomposity, but rather one of lack of ability in using the technology coupled with a high level of comfort using paper.

Rule 3: Fight the urge. Don’t print just because you can. Using your printer just because it’s there is a waste of precious resources—yours, your company’s, and the earth’s. Printing not only uses paper and ink, it wastes a lot of your time.

Speed Tip

If you hit print every time you change a paragraph on a document you’re writing, take the paper out of your printer. This will remind you of your goal to reduce your printing and help you fight the urge to print so frequently. If you don’t want to clutter up your e-mail inbox with converted faxes, set up a rule to send all faxes to their own folder.

Rule 4: Don’t skimp on a monitor. Buying a quality monitor may cost you a bit more, but it is well worth the price. A clear digital document on a readable screen reduces the urge to print because you can read from the screen more comfortably.

Rule 5: Get rid of your fax. If you have a line specifically designated to your fax, your fax tray may look about as cluttered as your e-mail inbox due to an increase in junk faxes. Unsolicited faxes cost you time and money and clutter up your important faxes. Explore the option of having your faxes delivered as e-mail.

Rule 6: Get a laptop or subnotebook. Subnotebooks are similar to laptops, but they are smaller and lighter, have fewer features and are less expensive. For people who travel frequently or those who have long commutes, purchasing a portable computer can mean extra productivity. With either portable device, you can store most (if not all) of the reading material you can handle for a trip or commute in 5 pounds (or less) without dragging all that heavy paper with you. It might also be possible, depending on the area you’re traveling in, to have wireless Internet access so you can deal with e-mail and other online content.

Rule 7: Centralize your information. Store all your digital information in one place. There are many companies that offer online storage capabilities—some of it for free. If this is of interest to you, check out if your employer offers digital storage or do an Internet search to find the service right for you.

Rule 8: Don’t stop at just one monitor. This is probably one of the more extreme and expensive suggestions, but if you truly go paperless, the expense will be made up eventually. As you may have already figured out, going truly paperless would be difficult when the need arises to refer to two documents on your computer screen at the same time. It is possible to view multiple documents at the same time on one monitor, but it can be difficult and frustrating, depending on your screen size and the complexity of the documents. De Abrew suggests buying a second monitor for this purpose. If you have the money and the space, it may be the best way to go paperless.

It’s up to you to decide how much of a paper reductionist you want to be. The more you feel comfortable speed reading on screen, the less you can rely on paper.

Speed Read Just the Good Stuff

Despite the amazing benefits of speed reading online, be sure to evaluate the validity of the websites you use. Unlike printed documents such as textbooks and most magazines, which are professionally written and checked for accuracy, anyone can post documents on the Internet. No organization or agency polices the Internet to be sure all the information there is correct. You may not know whether a seventh-grader or a national expert has written the site you visit. Assessing online sources helps you quickly reduce your reading load by eliminating invalid sources.

Whether you’re reading short articles or conducting detailed research online, it’s important to know whether the information is credible.

Consider using the D-SOURCE acronym to help you remember to evaluate the source before accepting information gathered digitally:

D = Dependable

S = Says Who?

O = Objective

U = Understandable

R = Recent

C = Complete

E = Evidence

Start your professional or research reading project by questioning the validity of online information by following these suggestions:

D = Dependable Ask these important questions to test the dependability of an electronic source:

• Is the information located on a site created by a known entity? For example, is an article from a printed national, international, or local newspaper or magazine?

• Is there a non-Internet equivalent of the material you can find to verify its legitimacy?

• Does the material contain a lot of spelling, typographical or grammatical errors? If so, the information probably hasn’t been properly edited, which brings the quality of the information into question. These types of errors can also result in incorrect information.

• Are the charts, graphs, maps, and photos clear and clearly labeled?

S = Says Who? On whose authority is the information being presented? Look for the following information about the author:

• Who wrote it?

• What are his or her credentials?

• What else has he or she written on the topic?

• What are the author’s affiliations (university department, organization, corporate title, etc.)?

• Is contact information available?

If you can’t find sufficient credibility in the author’s background, consider disqualifying him or her as a source.

O = Objective Ask yourself, How objective is this author? Practically everything you read has some sort of bias or particular personal slant. Think critically about the information the author provides as well as the information notprovided to help determine level of bias.

U = Understandable Ask yourself, Is this information easy to understand? If you find that the material uses very difficult vocabulary or a lot of jargon, you might want to find material targeted to a different audience.

R = Recent Ask yourself, How old is this information? Most articles provide a date, but that date could have different meanings. It may indicate …

• When the article was first published.

• When it was first placed on the web.

• When the most recent revision was done.

Decide how relevant the information is for your purpose.

C = Complete Ask yourself, Is that all there is? Some online information is a work in progress, or has a sense of incompleteness about it. Look for …

• How thoroughly the author deals with the topic.

• A sense of completeness.

• The depth of the material.

• New information. (Or is it a summary of other research?)

• An “under construction” icon.

• A printed equivalent.

• Differences between digital and print versions.

E = Evidence Ask yourself, Where’s the beef? Some online materials can appear quite flashy but contain very little valuable substance. Look for whether or not …

• The author referred to other sources to substantiate his or her claims.

• The sources used are noteworthy.

• The material contains a bibliography.

• The material contains footnotes.

• The references within the text are reliable.

• The hyperlinks are to credible sources.

And the Results Are …

In this chapter, you’ve learned how to adapt your paper reading strategies to your on screen reading. By doing so, you can increase your reading speed while reducing your reliance on printed materials. You’ve also learned about keeping your eyes refreshed and how to evaluate the validity of materials online.

It’s now time to check in on your reading progress. This is your chance to find out your online reading rate and practice some of the pacing strategies for on screen text. Choose one of these two articles from Fast Company (

“What Should I Do with My Life?” by Po Bronson 4,669 words/average 16 words per line

“Masters of the (Information) Universe” by Mark Fischetti 1,831 words/average 13 words per line

Speed Tip

You can choose any other online articles you like; however, you’ll need to determine the average number of words per line to calculate your words per minute (see Appendix D).

When you reach the article page, click on “Printable page” to get the text in a single column width without illustrations or ads. Consider warming up your eyes using the Discipline Your Eyes Exercise in Chapter 3. Conduct a One-Minute Timing exercise using your on screen pacer of choice and any other reading strategy you like. Track your words per minute (multiply the numbers of lines you read on screen × the average number of words per line listed with the article information above) and comprehension on the appropriate charts in Appendix C.

The Least You Need to Know

• You can use most of the same strategies when reading on screen as you use when reading paper documents; you just have to modify them to suit the digital text.

• It’s worth your time to get comfortable with a few on screen pacers to increase your on screen reading speed.

• Following ergonomic guidelines can improve your eye and body comfort when reading on screen.

• There are ways to go completely paperless, and there are ways to simply reduce your usage of paper.

• When evaluating the validity of online content, try using the D—SOURCE acronym before accepting information gathered digitally.