In an earlier post, we talked about how taking notes, highlighting, summarizing, and otherwise marking up a text can help you reduce the overall amount of time you spend getting the information you need from a piece of reading material. If you followed the steps we suggested, you should have one or more pages of a book or article with key words highlighted. In this post, we’ll talk about how you can use that marked-up text as an exercise focusing on key words, something that will help increase reading speed in general.
Read through the text you’ve already highlighted, but only look at the key words. You’ll probably automatically start to read the words in between, but stop yourself from doing so. Remember, you’ve already identified the important words and phrases, and the rest is just clutter that will slow you down right now. Get used to the sensation of skipping over the non-essential parts of the text.
By training your eyes to focus only on the key words and phrases, you’re also training your brain and your eyes to take in more than one word at a time. This will translate into increased reading speed when move on to a new text, since you’ll be naturally “clumping” the words and processing them more quickly.
Another advantage of training your eyes to focus on key words is that you’ll be much less likely to subvocalize (to “read aloud” in your head) because the key words won’t make complete sentences, so your instinct to “read along” as you scan the text will not be triggered. Since subvocalization is one of the habits that will slow you down, eliminating this tendency will also help you become a faster speed reader.
As you practice with the marked-up text, you’ll find that you don’t need to read every word because the information you need is in the key phrases and words. Your goal is to reach the point where you’re able to automatically identify key words without marking them. Once you’ve trained yourself to pick out the key words, you won’t need to mark the text unless it’s something that you’ll need for later reference.