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Thursday, August 27, 2015

 

Should Writers Accommodate Infrequent, Inattentive Readers?

Has the Internet created generations of infrequent, inattentive readers?

Photo from contentgroup.com.au.
This blog post is in front of you on your computer screen, or maybe on your tablet or phone screen. How do you read it? From start to finish? Reading only the words in bold? Clicking on the links first and then returning to the article? Do you check the comments before reading?

While some studies have found that we are reading less than ever, others argue that we are reading more than ever, but nearly all studies have found evidence that the way we read and the mediums we use to read are evolving.

Because of the Internet, we are exposed to shorter bursts of texts, which might be limiting our attention spans. According to an article that mentions Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, our “hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information.” In addition, The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Survey and an analysis by Jakob Nielsen suggest that we are losing the ability to concentrate on an article and/or book from beginning to end.

The Internet allows us to collect a wide range of facts and figures, but we are no longer taking the time to relate these facts to each other. College professors have noticed their students’ inability to read lengthy texts and have responded by either reducing their reading lists or encouraging them to read more print material and less online. Author Lancelot R. Fletcher coined the term slow reading, which has since grown into a small movement to encourage us to slow down while we read and take the time to think about and process it.

What does this mean for us as writers? Do we take our audience’s attention spans into consideration? Write shorter texts? Or create more breaks within texts? Shorter chapters?

What do you think? Should writers change the way they write to accommodate the reading styles of their audiences? Have you already noticed writers changing their styles to appease the masses?

These questions brought to you by Anne Greenawalt

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