How We Read – by Garry Marsh

How We Read

Reading has been with us almost as long as mankind has walked this Earth. From stylized animal images painted on a cave wall, hieroglyphics inside the Great Pyramids, magnificent medieval manuscripts, to texting on our smart phones today. We have always created information for someone else to read.

My blog is not about why we read, but something we are now only beginning to understand and that is how we read.

I want to explain “Why Yuor Barin Can Raed Tihs”.  Even if we substitute numbers for letter, Y0UR M1ND 15 R34D1NG 7H15 4U70M471C4LLY W17H0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17. So what’s going on?

Part of the answer is the fact that your brain is a powerful code cracking machine. It wants to understand and provide you with the information you require however garbled or unclear that information may first appear. This in itself is a truly amazing statement. Referring to the brain as “it” and not “you” underlines the fact that certain functions of the brain are beyond your control.

Context is very important. In the above sentences containing scrambled words, you may not have read all the words correctly on first reading, but your brain subconsciously fills in the gaps based on context and allows you to read the sentences correctly. So the conclusion is that we are not reading the letters within words. So what exactly are we reading?

Understanding several words in a sentence can help us guess another one. We also scan words and pick out markers that make them easy to identify, such as certain letter combinations and sounds. These elements make it easier to infer the word even when the letters are not in perfect order.

Often text is reasonably predictable. For instance, given the first few words of the sentence, you can guess what words are coming next (even with very little information from the letters in the word). We know that context plays an important role in understanding speech that is distorted or presented in noise, the same is probably true for written text that has been jumbled.

As you now understand the “context” of this blog it becomes even easier for you to “dael wtih wodrs in wihch not all teh leettrs aer in thier corerct psotiions”. Your brain is now in the zone and I guess most of you read this without any problem.

I’m going to explore this fascinating subject further on how we read and I’d really welcome your feedback and comments

As a book editor at Splatter Books, when reading submitted works for publication I have to be very careful to ensure what I “read” is what I “see” and not give sway to our super brains possibly telling us something else!  Not always easy.

Garry Marsh, Co Founder, Splatter Books