By Walter Boomsma,
Yes, I am one of those folks who can remember when the Internet first came into being. No, I did not invent it. It may come as no surprise that in those early days there were naysayers and profits of doom. One of the oft-publicized “dangers” seen by many was “information overload.” We were, according to many, in danger of collapsing under the weight of “too much information.” (The term was popularized in the 1970 book, “Future Shock” and we’ve suffered – or gained – an information explosion in the forty years since!)
While that might seem a bit amusing, we do have some issues these days related to the amount of information we receive. A slightly newer term called “information anxiety” has evolved. This is when we start worrying whether or not we have enough information… or too much? Is the information we have accurate and is the source reliable?
One way to reduce stress is to give and access available information efficiently and deliberately. Some readers are no doubt tired of my constant reminders to include the five “W’s” and one “H” when submitting events, but this is necessary to insure we are giving enough information. (And thanks to the Granger who recently submitted an event using those six words as an outline!)
Speaking of words, did you know that the average adult reads at a rate of 250 – 300 words per minute (with 70% comprehension)? When writing a typical Communications Column I tend to keep an eye on the word count. A long article is 750 words–but I know the average reader can finish it in under three minutes! There are times when I wish I could write that fast!
Now I could offer you a lot more information about this… such as why this is true (it has to do with the way we teach reading in school and includes fancy terms like “subvocalization”), but my goal is to encourage you to consider improving your communication skills by boosting your reading speed. If you were a runner, you would probably attempt to improve your speed. A musician would likely not spend his or her entire life playing scales, but would advance to more challenging pieces. Yet once out of school, most folks do little to improve their reading speed and comprehension. This is not an unpleasant task and huge improvments are possible. (Speed readers are known to achieve 1000 words per minute with 85% comprehension.)
You can take a simple, confidential “test” to determine your current speed and comprehension by visiting a number of sites. One I used is Reading Soft. Another is my Read Speed. (Bear in mind most “free” offers are used to entice you to purchase something–but in both of these “no purchase is necessary.”)
Spreeder.com is a free online speed reading tool designed to help you learn the art of speed reading. Wiki How offers tips that are perhaps less intimidating than a full-blown program. Be curious, make this fun! You may decide to enter the lecturer’s reading contest next year as your speed improves!
And I see I’ve reached 500 words. If you’re an average reader, it took you two minutes or so to read this. Invest a few more minutes in self-improvement and enjoy the returns!