Linear and Non-linear Reading: Effective Reading Methods

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Jay Bolter in his book "Writing Space" defines reading in chapter 6 as to follow one path from among those suggested by the layout of the text (100). Each following statement or idea comes after the previous statement. I would say that I am a cross between a linear and non-linear reader. As much as I prefer to read in a structured building sense (one sentence after another), I find myself reading more content delivered in a non-linear method. In my opinion, I think it matters on what genre you are reading and how it is delivered. For example fiction novels are going to be read in a linear fashion, while non-fiction books and publications are read non-linear. My reading comprises mainly of non-fiction and textbooks. I am reading to extract information in a timely manner. Also incorporated in the non-fiction genre are diagrams, charts, and pictures. The delivery of the reading also has an effect. Reading on the internet compared to a book is more sporadic and non-linear. Since you jump around from one link to another.

In the article "Reading on the Web," by Jack Neilsen, it is outlined that people rarely read a website in its entirety or word by word, but they look for keywords and sentences by scanning the website. This is the type of non-linear reading that I find myself doing everyday. One of the drawbacks to people getting comfortable with this type of reading is that they use this non-linear method in all reading. There are times that linear reading has its advantages most importantly in legal and contractual writing. A very high percentage of consumers today do not read the contracts that they agree and sign to implement. This can cause the consumer to not completely understand the terms and conditions of the contract and immediately puts the power in the contractor's realm.


1 Comment

It's interesting that you say you are a "hybrid" reader of sorts, meaning both linear and non-linear. It's a good point. You also make the good point that sometimes, people bring their non-linear reading habits to linear texts and miss things they shouldn't (like legal contracts, etc.). It is very strange to think about how much the web has affected our reading habits; how quickly we want information. You raise some good points here.

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This page contains a single entry by henne175 published on February 22, 2010 9:31 AM.

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