March 26, 2015

Are You Listening to My Writing

Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

I’m told we speak at 100 to 300 words per minute and hear at 900 to1600 words per minute. Women tend to speak more words during the day than men. This could be because they are constantly repeating what they have said to men. No doubt women hear much better than men but we all tend to tune out about 75% of what we hear.  So 25% retention is considered good for the spoken word. 

What about reading retention?

I know as a writer thinking readers only retain 25% of what they read would be devastating but the truth is reading retention is even less. Expectations of 10% reading retention is all you can expect. That is sad, but near the truth. I say near the truth because it can be improved upon. Let’s look at the ways.

White Space
Advertisers know that white space is essential to the printed ad. The white space draws the eye to the focal point of the ad. Although you may think it appears as wasted space it is considered to be worth the cost for the job it does. The benefit to the ad far outweighs the blank space.

Reading Retention Improvement
One of the most common and easiest ways is the use of titles, headings and paragraph breaks. This does two things. First it allows white space which gives the eye a rest. This is very important with digital print. The eye needs the rest from the light and this allows that. Secondly, as stated earlier, it draws focus to the content of the upcoming paragraph hopefully creating curiosity. Ask yourself if that worked here.

·       When you see a bullet list you know this is probably important to the topic at hand.
·       Bullet list are concise and provide a quick and intense amount of information.
·       Bullet list also provide an additional amount of white space and rest for the eye.
·       Many times a bullet list will draw the reader back for review and better retention.

Visual concepts have been important since the cave man first drew of the days hunt on the walls of his cave. His story was in pictures. Today the business of graphics is a large part of book sales due to the importance of connecting the reader with the words of the author. The graphics should present an interesting vision pertaining to the content of the written word. The graphics should bring curiosity to the reader. Graphics are also used to bring a longing, a desire or some form of hope to the reader. Graphics can be very successful connecting the reader to the word and when done properly it is said the reading retention will increase from 10% to 35%. That is better than the 25% hearing retention. Better but let’s not give up on the audiobooks.

People read differently today than in the past. We need things more concise, briefer segments, more breaks and if using a screen rest for the eyes from time to time. As we write we need to be reminded of this and make our printed word of today more readable. If you have additional information that can help make our writing more readable, please share it here in our comments.

Now give your eyes a rest.


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