How to Read

Open Book

Who needs to learn how to read?

After all, we all learned how to read fairly early in life, usually in elementary school, right?

But do you know how to really read?

More importantly, are you really reading?

Reading can make you a better writer, as long as you’re paying attention and leaving time to actually write. But what we’re talking about here is what you say, rather than how you say it.

If you haven’t noticed, competition in the world of online content is fierce. Anyone playing to win is searching high and low for information that others don’t have, which for many means subscribing to a ridiculous number of RSS feeds.

While seeking out novel information from a wide variety of sources is admirable, it doesn’t necessarily give you an advantage. The ancient Greeks had a label for those who were widely read but not well read—they called them sophomores.

As in sophomoric… not a second-year college student (I suppose there’s not really much of a distinction).

Scanners and Pleasure Seekers

We know that people don’t read well online. They ruthlessly scan for interesting chunks of information rather than digesting the whole, and they want to be entertained in the process. This is the reality that online publishers deal with, so we disguise our nuggets of wisdom with friendly formatting and clever analogies.

But that doesn’t mean you should read that way.

If you’ve been publishing online for even a small amount of time, you’ve seen someone leave a comment that clearly demonstrates they didn’t read or understand the content. Even more painful is when someone writes a responsive post that clearly misses the entire point of the original article.

While it happens to us all from time to time, you do not want to consistently be one of these people. Credibility is hard enough to establish without routinely demonstrating that you fail to grasp a topic you’ve chosen to write about, whether in an article or a comment.

Plus, if you’re doing nothing but scanning hundreds of RSS feeds and reading purely to be entertained, you’re at a disadvantage. Someone in your niche or industry is likely reading books and reading deeper to become the higher authority.

Or they will after they read this article.

Information vs. Understanding

People often think of learning as an information-gathering and retention process. But being able to recall and regurgitate information is low-level learning compared with insightful understanding.

Bloggers are big on regurgitation. These cut-and-paste creatives add value to the world through a mash-up of sources, right? Maybe, but without the ability to understand and communicate what it all means for the reader, you’re simply passing on your reading obligations to others, and that’s not giving people what they look for in a publication.

On the other hand, if you understand everything you read upon a casual once over, are you truly learning anything new? The material that gives you an edge in the insight department is the stuff that’s harder to understand. In other words, the writer is your superior when it comes to that particular subject matter, and it’s your job to close the expertise gap by reading well.

You do that by moving beyond learning by instruction, and increasing your true understanding by discovery. For example, you read a challenging book full of great information, and you understand enough of it to know that you don’t understand all of it.

At that point, you can dive into the book again and read more carefully. You can go to supplemental resources. You can read other books. All that matters is you do the work rather than asking someone, and I guarantee you’re really learning in the process.

For example, next time you read a challenging blog post and you’re not clear on a point, your first inclination might be to ask a question in the comments. Instead, read the post again. If it’s still not clear, go do some research on your own to see if you can figure it out. Then when you finally do ask a question, you’re on an entirely different level of understanding and can likely engage in a meaningful dialogue with the author.

Instruction is important and beneficial. But true understanding comes from your own exploration and discovery along the path.

The Four Levels of Reading

Back in 1940, a guy named Mortimer J. Adler jolted the “widely read” into realizing they might not be well read with a book called How to Read a Book. Updated in 1973 and still going strong today, How to Read a Book identifies four levels of reading:

  • Elementary
  • Inspectional
  • Analytical
  • Syntopical

Each of these reading levels is cumulative. You can’t progress to a higher level without mastering the levels that come before.

1. Elementary Reading – Aptly named, elementary reading consists of remedial literacy, and it’s usually achieved during the elementary schooling years. Sadly, many high schools and colleges must offer remedial reading courses to ensure that elementary reading levels are maintained, but very little instruction in advanced reading is offered.

2. Inspectional Reading – Scanning and superficial reading are not evil, as long as approached as an active process that serves an appropriate purpose. Inspectional reading means giving a piece of writing a quick yet meaningful advance review in order to evaluate the merits of a deeper reading experience.

There are two types:

  • Skimming: This is the equivalent of scanning a blog post to see if you want to read it carefully. You’re checking the title, the subheads, and you’re selectively dipping in and out of content to gauge interest. The same can be done with a book—go beyond the dust jacket and peruse the table of contents and each chapter, but give yourself a set amount of time to do it.
  • Superficial: Superficial reading is just that… you simply read. You don’t ponder, and you don’t stop to look things up. If you don’t get something, you don’t worry about it. You’re basically priming yourself to read again at a higher level if the subject matter is worthy.

Stopping at inspectional reading is only appropriate if you find no use for the material. Unfortunately, this is all the reading some people do in preparation for their own writing.

3. Analytical Reading – At this level of reading, you’ve moved beyond superficial reading and mere information absorption. You’re now engaging your critical mind to dig down into the meaning and motivation beyond the text. To get a true understanding of a book, you would:

  • Identify and classify the subject matter as a whole
  • Divide it into main parts and outline those parts
  • Define the problem(s) the author is trying to solve
  • Understand the author’s terms and key words
  • Grasp the author’s important propositions
  • Know the author’s arguments
  • Determine whether the author solves the intended problems
  • Show where the author is uninformed, misinformed, illogical or incomplete

You’ll note that the inspectional reading you did perfectly sets the stage for an analytical reading. But so far, we’re talking about reading one book. The highest level of reading allows you to synthesize knowledge from a comparative reading of several books about the same subject.

4. Syntopical Reading – It’s been said that anyone can read five books on a topic and be an expert. That may be true, but how you read those five books will make all the difference. If you read those five books analytically, you will become an expert on what five authors have said. If you read five books syntopically, you will develop your own unique perspective and expertise in the field.

In other words, syntopical reading is not about the existing experts. It’s about you and the problems you’re trying to solve, in this case for your own readers. In this sense, the books you read are simply tools that allow you to form an understanding that’s never quite existed before. You’ve melded the information in those books with your own life experience and other knowledge to make novel connections and new insights. You, my friend, are now an expert in your own right.

Here are the five steps to syntopical reading:

  • Inspection: Inspectional reading is critical to syntopical reading. You must quickly indentify which five (or 15) books you need to read from a sea of unworthy titles. Then you must also quickly identify the relevant parts and passages that satisfy your unique focus.
  • Assimilation: In analytical reading, you identify the author’s chosen language by spotting the author’s terms of art and key words. This time, you assimilate the language of each author into the terms of art and key words that you choose, whether by agreeing with the language of one author or devising your own terminology.
  • Questions: This time, the focus is on what questions you want answered (problems solved), as opposed to the problems each author wants to solve. This may require that you draw inferences if any particular author does not directly address one of your questions. If any one author fails to address any of your questions, you messed up at the inspection stage.
  • Issues: When you ask a good question, you’ve identified an issue. When experts have differing or contradictory responses to the same question, you’re able to flesh out all sides of an issue, based on the existing literature. When you understand multiple perspectives within an individual issue, you can intelligently discuss the issue, and come to your own conclusion (which may differ from everyone else, thereby expanding the issue and hopefully adding unique value).
  • Conversation: Determining the “truth” via syntopical reading is not really the point, since disagreements about truth abound with just about any topic. The value is found within the discussion among competing view points concerning the same root information, and you’re now conversant enough to hold your own in a discussion of experts. This is what the “online conversation” was supposed to look like according to early bloggers, and sometimes, it does. But mostly, the online conversation looks like the unqualified, unsubstantiated opinions of the ill-informed, and you’re not looking to be part of that scene.

Be a Demanding Reader for the Win

Reading, at its fundamental essence, is not about absorbing information. It’s about asking questions, looking for answers, understanding the various answers, and deciding for yourself. Think of reading this way, and you quickly realize how this allows you to deliver unique value to your readers as a publisher.

If you think all of this sounds like a lot of work, well… you’re right. And most people won’t do it, just like most people will never blog or publish online in the first place.

That’s why your readers need you. They need you to do the work for them, because they don’t want to become an expert. So, it’s your job to understand the complex and grasp the essentials, then make it simple, easy to read, and entertaining.

You’re on it, right?

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter and Google+.

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Comments

  1. As people won’t learn to read online properly any time soon, we’ve got to stick to a several researches that point to the fact that the most important information should be placed at the upper middle part of the screen.

    Nice post b.t.w.

  2. I’d not heard of “How to read a book” – thanks a lot for bringing it to my/our attention

    Skim reading without duly taking in the context or argument is something that I’ve been consciously guilty of for some time. I’ve largely failed in my attempts to remedy it so far, but this offers some great tips.

    When I prune my reading list to be able to concentrate more on my core areas of interest, I’ll be sure to retain Copyblogger :-)

  3. This may be the best, most valuable thing you have published to date. And that’s saying something. I will try to get my college-bound daughter to read this. It can only help. Thank you. James

  4. Just reading other blog posts can make you a better writer. I try to explain that to my readers all the time.

  5. Brian,

    Thanks for the link.

    Some great points and perhaps controversial (but true) statements.

    I love this one:

    “Plus, if you’re doing nothing but scanning hundreds of RSS feeds and reading purely to be entertained, you’re at a disadvantage. Someone in your niche or industry is likely reading books and reading deeper to become the higher authority.”

    It’s what I’ve been trying to get across myself–that bloggers who regularly read books written by accomplished authorities and experts will become better writers (both in style and substance) than bloggers who only read blogs.

    And:

    “But being able to recall and regurgitate information is low-level learning compared with insightful understanding.

    Bloggers are big on regurgitation.”

    All of us bloggers know this, whether we’ll admit it or not.

    Nice explanation of The Four Levels of Reading.

    I used Level 2: Inspectional Reading to read it. It looks like it “merits…a deeper reading experience” so I’m going to reread it on Level 3.

    Really good, substantive, thought-provoking post.

  6. Looks like somebody’s been reading Mortimer J. Adler syntopically.

  7. Brian,

    I don’t usually leave comments all that often on blog posts but I had to say – Well put.

    I know that I get overwhelmed with the bulk of information online. I think that we oftentimes swap great books and “deeper” reading material for quick blog posts and even twitter feeds.

    Those that are succeeding in online publishing master the fundamentals you’ve laid out.

    Joel Mark Witt

  8. Very true…to be a better writer, even a direct response copywriter, you must become an avid reader. Reading fiction novels develop story telling skills and stories draw people into reading sales letters.

    “How To Read A Book” is a must. I first picked up a copy when the self-help guru Jim Rohn mentioned it at one of his seminars.

  9. This article expertly highlights the differences between being well read and being well, read. The amount of cutting and pasting in the world of blogs, and even in real life is maddening.

    I recently wrote an article on Fight Club on my blog. In addition to my readers, I showed it to a bunch of friends and family members. Not one of them understood what the movie was about. Hint: It’s not about crazy people blowing stuff up.

    Basically, with any media, I feel that most people have become sophomoric, in that they consume the information, regurgitate quotes and viewpoints, but never truly understand anything.

  10. Enjoyed this post very much! It’s easy to get overloaded with RSS feeds and therefor skim more than analyze and truly digest. Wonderful reminder! Will try and keep this in mind in the future.

  11. Reading, whether on line or books in bed, can also increase your vocabulary. There are times when each of these reading styles seems appropriate for a blog post. I’ll call it value added. If you don’t add value, at least once in a while, why is someone going to read you on a regular basis? And sometimes why aggregate blogs fall short for me.

    This being the start of the school year, your post might be appropriate as a handout to students!

  12. Brian,

    I loved this, and I couldn’t agree more. There was an article I READ a while back, I think it was called “Is Google Making Us Stupid.” It was about how we’re all turning into robotic scanners. When we’re online, we swallow without chewing.

    At about my third week of posting, I realized that I was scanning a LOT of content. I’m a reader first, writer second. I didn’t want to swallow without chewing. Even more, I didn’t want people doing that to me.

    From the moment on, I treated every post as something my children would one day read.

    It’s made all the difference.

    My niche, I decided, was people who like to read. You’re right, originality to regurgitation is like microbe to mountain.

    I don’t care what others write, but I want my words read. I’d rather have a thousand loyal readers than ten times that amount that have me in their RSS feeds because they feel like it’s something they’re supposed to do.

    Thanks for a great post.

  13. P.S. I don’t say this to brag, only to prove a point.

    I have seven hundred comments off thirty posts, and they’re not there from friends and family. Only a dozen people who know the color of my eyes, know I’m Writer Dad, and only my sister has commented. Twice.

    Communities can be built quickly with the right words.

  14. Damn! No wonder my brain hurts!

  15. “How to Read a Book” I’d say, that is a great title for a book. I have it in my wish list now – and may just buy it and read it.

    This blog entry, I will have to read again because there is a lot of info packed up in here.

    But from what I gather, I do agree with your sentiment. I guess it could be said – the blogs I most deeply respect are the ones I read slowly. I don’t scan blogs I believe in.

  16. Nice write.

    I had to do this type of reading with nutrition and food. I took info from “You the owners manual” and “Eat right for your blood type”, combined it with “Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle” ebook, then correlated it with foods that have high PH levels as that relates to cancer that I found online, and created my own spreadsheet that gives me a list of foods that satisfied all my criteria cross referenced from the various sources.

    Lots of work, big rewards.

  17. Hey, I just skim-read this article and it sounded great, thanks!

  18. Simply one of the best posts I’ve ever come across on a blog. It also helps if you read with a purpose in mind…it becomes easier to understand, and you become more receptive to newer, different ideas.

  19. “They need you to do the work for them, because they don’t want to become an expert.” Very true. Thank you for being our expert. Great post.

  20. Brilliant. Excellent post and one with which I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks.

  21. I think that you have touched on a very, very important topic here Brian. Everyone (incuding me) who really read this post has learned quite a deal about themselfs, or about others I am sure. so there is nothing else to say than thanks. You’re doing a great job :o)
    happy writing from Paris!

  22. This is sort of silly isn’t it? Only people who already know how to read would be able to read this.

    ;-)

  23. What makes the difference for me is taking it offline. When I have paper in my hands, the type is smaller (we can alter plenty online), my attention is more focused (I’m actively choosing to read versus skim and scan) and I’m literally carving out time to READ this because I WANT to, not have to.

    I recently bought some books on subjects in which I consider myself widely read but not well read. I wanted to learn more. There was an active choice and decision to read.

    That’s key, Brian. Online, we read because it’s there. It’s in front of us. There is so much text that we just read because… well, what else are we going to do?

    But when you actively become engaged with reading, something happens. And you read to become well read and grasp everything. You’re not skimming and scanning out of habit or obligation.

    Like this post. I hit paragraph two and started to slow down. Interest. Choice. I skipped back up to the top and read slower. Active reading. Active absorption because I wanted to pay attention. And I’ll probably reread this post a few times to make sure I’ve got it all, which ties in nicely to what you’ve said.

    *That’s* how I read. I wish it was offline (and I will print it out), but it’s a conscious decision to pay attention. Work? Effort? Hell yes. Worth it?

    Hell yes.

    Moral of the story: If you don’t want it bad, it doesn’t count.

  24. Brian-My English lit. teaching grandmother is rolling over in her grave…are we so lost from the beauty and depths that reading has to offer that how to’s are needed?
    I read the Is Google Making us Stupid. There was an NYT article around the same time, maybe that was the same thing. I shook my head in disbelief…reading, really reading, voraciously, inquisitively, thoughtfully…even joyfully… we are poor orphaned souls without it.

    Silly? Yes, maybe. But some things might need to be said.

  25. Brian, the one thing I would have stressed in your post is that re-reading is critical to understanding.

    The period between re-reading may be several decades.

    Sometimes only a couple of days.

    But go back to the material that captured your attention in the first place – you owed the author that much.

  26. Janice – I was making an example of “Even more painful is when someone writes a responsive post that clearly misses the entire point of the original article.”

  27. I think my reading of this was elementary!

    I read quite a lot, but I learned one thing: you can read all you like on a subject – but it is action that will make you a REAL authority, not untested knowledge.

  28. Brian- Ah. I was thinking about your audience…and your motivation, trying to figure that out…wondering…if the “cut and pasters” would take the time to read this as carefully as it deserves.

    One of my favorite posts of all times is your post about the Crossroads and the Renaissance, intersections. These are the thinking man’s answer to the echo chamber. Guides to a gentleman’s club ( and women) You’re doing it and I really appreciate it.

  29. Janice, you’re conversing with a Brian who isn’t me. :-)

  30. Rats…damn Nabokov has kept me up two nights in a row.. my bad… compliment still holds for you though…I am going to go get some sleep. Thanks. ;-)

  31. Great post Brian.

    Getting Mortimer Adler’s book was one of the best investment I’ve made.

    I really appreciate the summary you did in this post.

    Thanks.

  32. Thank you for the post.

    As for what it takes to be a real reader I strongly recommend “An Experiment in Criticism” by C. S. Lewis.

    Copyblogger is one of few blogs where I come back and read some posts several times. In particular yours, Brian and Sonia Simone’s.

  33. Funny that this entry should be second on my list after reading this post at Life’s Little Inspirations: http://lifeslittleinspirations.com/wide-eyed-walking which is all about connecting to the moment and paying attention.

    Online I tend to skim (which is why I don’t like reading fiction online – I can’t immerse myself in it – nor read it in the bath). And given the number of blogs I read and comment on, doing syntopic reading of each blog would take up more time than it already does. But if I’m going to contribute to the conversations in an effective manner, I do need to slow down and pay closer attention.

    I’m looking at the next tab in my round of posts for today and notice that it’s a round up of recommended posts from the week – another sign that I need to be reading more closely.

    Okay, okay, I get the message already! ;)

    (Thanks for the reminder, Brian)

  34. Hi Brian,

    A great post – I only regret that I don’t have the time to read the book on how to read a book. Still, I do have a system for reading blog posts, since there are so many to digest. Essentially, I just start at the top – the title is key to whether I will read a post (yours was obviously one that caught my attention), skim through the first paragraph to identify anything of value, then read the post analytically.

    There is so much junk out there in blog posts, so locating the ones of value is key.

    So this goes in my (social) bookmarks for follow-up at a later date, when I’ll look for how to read better to write better.

  35. Great post! Depth.

    Maybe you could have written the title as “How to learn”, touched upon ‘information overload’ and ‘knowledge management’ for bloggers.

    Speed Reading is another interesting behaviour that helps us choose what to read before we dive into our topics of interest.

    BTW, I’m guilty as charged with reading rss for pleasure (entertainment). The novelty!

    But even in today’s world, where time is scarce despite all the productivity we’ve achieved – there’s still a place for ‘regurgitation’ of information aka bloggers or to put it more sophisticatedly – information aggregators. And perhaps… that’s why we subscribe to and read so many rss feeds.

    However, just because a blog is difficult – it needn’t mean that the author is an expert (or has depth) – it could be because he’s a bad writer.

    There’s a saying… “It’s easy to make a difficult book and difficult to make an easy book.” I think this applies to blogs as well.

    I think your bang on… “It’s about asking questions, looking for answers, understanding the various answers, and deciding for yourself.” – concerning reading and learning.

    Sorry for the long comment, hope it had some depth and was not just a ‘Thanks. Great post!’

  36. This should be required (ahem) reading.

  37. You certainly wowed me with this post! It points out how we’ve become a nation (world?) of scanners. You mentioned early on that high schoolers have to be given remedial reading just to keep them at the Elementary level. This is too true and very sad. Is it any wonder blogging and scanning became the norm on the Internet, then?

    Then for a very enlightening post!

  38. I love teaching Syntopic reading in my classes. 5 books 2 to 3 hours Syntopic reading. The benefits go far beyond what was even mentioned here.

  39. Bravo Brian!

    Asking for your permission for reprint as is… as part of the background reading for a leadership program curriculum I’m designing. With credit to the guru of course!

    Maggie

  40. Brian, thanks for posting this. I’m preparing my own guide on how to read for bloggers looking to improve their blogging strategy and this will be a useful resource.

    Thanks for highlighting the incredible importance of the process of taking things in with our eyes and ears and turning them into productive, meaningful applications.

  41. Brian, You’ve compressed two semesters of what should be required coursework for all college freshmen into one blog post. Bravo!

  42. As a former English teacher-turned ad guy, I found a lot of good in this. I pushed my students to dig deeper in their reading because it adds such a new dimension to the text.

    Getting audiences to do the same with our ads…well, I suppose that’s the most dangerous thing we can do for some clients (and the most crucial for others).

  43. great post- and extremely informative. Personally, I tend to believe that most people who are reading blogs, read them much like those who read newspapers–they often skim through the article looking for key words, points or phrases to pop out at them. If the title is catchy, then this is even better as it often draws readers in. Authors or writers will then use the breadcrumb effect to guide readers throughout the post…

  44. Awesome post. Makes me want to read that book, which I have had on my shelf for years but never read.

    It’s also encouraging as a blogger. Because it’s easy to not want to do the hard work and just post to keep up with the voracity of putting up content so people have something new when they return.

    thanks,
    rhett

  45. Hi Brian,

    I feel I’ve learnt a great deal through your blog. I must admit: your blog has taken the void of a mentor in my life. This post, which talks about reading well, is quite appropriate to me as I read with lot of attention. Unless you read thoroughly we never get to learn anything. When you agree with the writer the learning seeps inside.
    Thanks for the great posts!
    Solomon

  46. Could someone summarize this for me? It was too much to read. ;)

  47. You write this and you don’t even link to me?

    http://www.ryanholiday.net/archives/read_to_lead_how_to_digest_boo_1.phtml

    Brian I am crushed.

  48. Ryan, you expect me to remember all the way back to 2007?

    Sorry dude, let me see if I can work it in. :-)

  49. This is why I love Copyblogger. Brian’s not afraid to throw down a true challenge (not in the bastardized sense of “problem,” but the real sense of calling us to be bigger than we are today.) Really cool. Thanks.

  50. I just can’t believe I’ve read this post or that it is even real. Blogs aren’t that serious, or rarely are. But here we have a guy that writes about copywriting and who cites Mortimer J. Adler and in older times, Aristotle! This is really amazing, you are taking things to a level that just can’t be accomplished by no-one else. You’re much more than a blogger, just as Chris Pearson is more than just a webmeister. You two are really amazing “twins”. (:

  51. I am reminded of an anecdote from Nock’s ‘Memoirs of a Superfluous Man,’ which I will have to recount from memory as my copy of the book is on the other side of the Atlantic:

    The dean of Harvard, many years ago, administered the following reading test to the incoming freshmen. He gave them a passage of straightforwards English prose, nothing difficult, nothing abstract, nothing lyrical. He asked them to read it, to read it again, to read it aloud to them. Then he asked them to recount, in their own words, what it said. Nine out of ten of the students could not.

  52. @ Frederick et al: Online copy of “Memoirs” is available on line here http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupid?key=olbp38823

    Thankyou for mentioning Nock’s work. Another great source for my Leadership Curriculum bibliography.

    – Maggie

  53. Thank you Maggie.

  54. In my early grade school years, I was an average student in my focus on education in general – relatively little personal motivation. At some point – and I struggle even now to remember exactly when – I began to ask one essential question more and more frequently as I explored, discovered, learned, understood, thought and felt – What do I think? It was this essential question that made all the difference in my own education, my careers, and what primarily gave me the passions for reading and for writing. It is the question foremost in the mind of the syntopical reader. It’s fundamental to ask – What do they think? – however, if you rarely ask what you yourself think, what you yourself feel about everything and every idea that comes your way, you’re missing the greatest gift you can give both to yourself and to human culture.

    What you think, what you feel, is by far the most important question you can ever ask and attempt to answer. It is the one path to a passionate and satisfying human life.

  55. GREAT article… I’m still convinced that the more you read as a child, the FAR more intelligent you become overall. I’ve heard of those who never had proper schooling but have learned how to read and just do it all the time — they’re more impressive than 90% of people I know.

  56. Brian,

    That was one of the most substantial posts that have ever read…maybe THE most.

    As the once little girl who could have been found at the library with a stack of books higher than her head, I can relate to this SO much. There are some days that as I am thinking of writing a post I am pulling four or five books off the shelf that I have read dozens of times to consider my thoughts before I have even written my first word but still I have never seen anything laid out like this in such a systematic manner.

    I will be taking this to heart and I have a feeling it will give me a much clearer process to work from then the random scattered approach I have been working with.

    I am not a scanner, I am a reader who reads A LOT. This will help me to be much more efficient.

    Thanks.

  57. Dave Hardwick :

    Posted an article on my blog about this – thought my readers would like it!

    http://jobhacking.typepad.com/job_hacking/2008/08/are-you-reading.html

  58. Elementary reading helped me go through school. Otherwise, school would’ve take too long..

  59. SuperSimpleGuy :

    Hi!

    Brian, thank you. This comes as a complementary response to a question I was asking marketing expert Christine Comaford Lynch. Magically, found your response directly after I submitted my question.
    You’re reading my mind : )

    My question was:

    What Is The Best Quickest Methodology of Building Unique Selling Authority.

    First, when I read the title “How to read”, this came to my mind “Oh, it’s either about speed reading or photoreading…”
    But I was really wowed by what you are sharing.

    Brian, thank’s for your unique generosity choices ; )

    Karim Benyagoub.

  60. Hello Brian,

    Of course a great post but I guess I read this post (and comments) in a little different perspective.

    This post left me a little nervous about leaving comments on Copyblogger and I could see how some newbies might take it this way as well. It kind of makes me feel like unless I have something highly valuable to contribute in the comment section and prove I have a decent grasp of the subject matter (even if a little cloudy) then I probably shouldn’t mention that I’ve been here and read this.

    In my experience, not all comment sections / blogs work like this. But I guess it depends on the kind of community you have built?

    Also, while reading through the comments I was surprised by the number of people who were amazed by this information. It is of course laid out very well and broken down into logical concepts but isn’t this the kind of stuff we should all be doing automatically since school?

    I’d really expect the copywriters community to be reading and analyzing like this already. Maybe not thinking about the steps as much, but just something they do naturally.

    I guess this is just my way of adding some value or different angles to your post and I really do love this blog and hope you don’t take my comment in a bad way. It’s just some thoughts I had while reading.

    To add one more thing about the reading process, I find it useful if you read over something you don’t fully understand to stop reading and think about it for a minute. Like you said, how can that relate to your situation?

  61. SuperSimpleGuy :

    Hello!

    Everyone shoud analyse anything and everything anytime. Not only when you read.

    Meanwhile, a well applied specific methodology in aorder to deal with a specific problem, can X-tiple your results.

    Analyzing the analysis concepts, maybe a cool sport :)

    SSG.

  62. Here I was in my bed looking through articles on saved to read layer using the Instapaper app for my iPhone when I came across this post.

    Amazing. Immediately I loaded this article in the tiny safari browser with the tiny buttons to come here and make sure I thank you for this post.

    There are so many other blogs that provide excellent (and practical) information. Yet, this post was the first one that ever made me feel compelled to comment even though I was ready to sleep.

    Anyhow, I’m going to come back and read it more carefully later. Till then, thank you and I hope you keep up this caliber of writing.

  63. @ John Hoff

    I’m still using my iPhone so you’ll forgive any typos.

    I wanted to respond to what you said about how these are skills readers, especially at this site, should already know and be applying. To a certain degree, I agree with you. Here is where I differ.

    Recently, I graduated from University of Maryland, Colle Park with a BA in English. So for me, not only did I learn this information, but my main goal was to apply these skills in my writing. At the same time, a writer always know that there is no such thing as a final draft. In other words, we need to go back and remember the skills discusse in this post time and time again.

    One last point I would like to make is the reason this post was as informative and refreshing as many are making it to be. Sure, we may know this information and have read it before on numerous places. However, information is only as good and effective as it is communicated. This post is an excellent example of simplifying a complicated set of skills and inspiring readers to take action.

    Anyhow, I hope I added some beneficial thoughts to your comment. If not, then you’ll forgive my lengthy reply to your well thought out comment.

  64. @ Karim – Thank you Karim for taking the time to respond and clarify some.

    You make a good point how we all need to go back to the basics and remember what we’ve learned. In our busy lives, we rush through things (like reading) thinking we’re soaking it all up when in fact, we are missing a point.

    I suppose what was getting me and maybe it came out the wrong way in my comment was how, for me, this very well written post reminded us that we need to slow down and really try to soak in what we are reading and not just say, skim. Brian definitely laid it out very nicely and I do appreciate posts like this.

    Reading and understanding is basically what I got from this post. Reading and understanding is something you should do when you read LOL.

    This is where my confusion was while reading through comments. It was as if no one does this already?

    Am I making sense? I dunno.

    Thanks again for the discussion Karim.

  65. @ John

    “Reading and understanding is something you should do when you read LOL.

    This is where my confusion was while reading through comments. It was as if no one does this already?

    Am I making sense?”

    Yes sir, you absolutely are and I couldn’t agree more =).

    By the way, I’m such a loser – I actually decided to get up and post a link to this post on my (new) blog. I guess it worked out though because I had a chance to read your reply and get back to you.

  66. I’m not sure I ever commented so much on one single post. However, I figured that over the next few days this post will be flooded with people.

    So I thought I would do my best to help out other bloggers and link to another post from ProBlogger.

    This post is a treasure for bloggers and contains more resources than you imagine. It’s a bit older but I guarantee you it will do you good for years to come. Enjoy.

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/06/27/a-z-of-professional-blogging/

  67. Beautiful job. You shined the spotlight on some key distinctions.

    Related to this, if you know that character trumps emotion trumps logic … then you can tailor your info based on whether you need somebody to make somebody think or feel (emotion)… or simply transfer info (logic).

  68. Heh, my girlfriend has some trouble reading for Law School. She reads very slowly and has trouble understanding stuff. I sent her this link and told her to take some courses. Great post!

    Just so you know, if your reading this, I love to help people out, so if you have any questions about ANYTHING, or need some advice, you can follow me @Garbarrassing on Twitter and ask. I will help you out with whatever I can.

  69. Hey, great summary. I’m actually writing a whole series of posts about applying this, so check it out if you’re interested.

    http://wonderwealthwisdom.blogspot.com/search/label/Speed%20Reading

  70. Intresting post and comments.

  71. What about referential reading where you read and digest information with a view to passing on the information to others orally?

    eg. I read this great article today about widgets, it seems that …

  72. Hey, I just skim-read this article and it sounded great, thanks!

  73. I find kids these days don’t read the detail. You need to break the text up with headlines and sub-headings. Thanks for a nice post.

  74. I have to confess: I’m guilty of skimming a post and then kicking out a half-baked comment.

    I’m also guilty of skimming an article, bookmarking it and then coming back to read it later, more deeply. Like I did this one. I’m glad I did.

    Here’s the problem when people depend on blogs for information: it’s second-hand. And it gets water down each time it gets regurgitated.

    I love blogs like Copyblogger because I know the ideas are coming from books–so they seem fresh, interesting and compelling.

    Even though it’s hard, it pays to take the time to read books. And read them deeply.

  75. Beautiful job. You shined the spotlight on some key distinctions.

  76. We have recently made an exciting discovery–three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos on the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    When we discovered them and how intrinsically edifying they are, we negotiated an agreement with Encyclopaedia Britannica to be the exclusive worldwide agent to make them available.

    For those of you who teach, this is great for the classroom.

    I cannot over exaggerate how instructive these programs are–we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more:

    http://www.thegreatideas.org/HowToReadABook.htm

  77. With the internet and the scrolling functions and the instant gratification, it’s all to easy to succumb to impatience. Who cares, when the majority of the world finally takes this approach, it’ll be the ones who can still read who become the intelligent class. Just trying to see the bright side of things… I reckon that’s a book anyone can benefit from FYI.

  78. Extremely long but very useful and informative article. How i wish i can do all of that in a short period of time. But for sure doing those will produce results. I will try to spread your words through my blog and link it back to you. Thanks a lot for those tips.

  79. Just reading other blog posts can make you a better writer. I try to explain that to my readers all the time

  80. As a self confessed scanner, this article has made me consider how much I’m getting (or missing) out of my reading style. Thanks for the wake up call.. I stumble you.

  81. Extremely helpful. Readers only spend like an average of 2 minutes in my website. It’s quite difficult for people to get signed in. Thanks for writing this.

  82. Your articles are amazing! I have Copyblogger as an RSS feed on my main page which is igoogle and I read every article that I have time to read and was just reading the article on reading and I saw a book mentioned named “How To Read.” I pulled it up on Google Books and have been reading it and it is very interesting although I do a great deal of active reading and find myself in the category (no pats on the back) but a good reader. I say this as I digest the words carefully and read everything I can get my hands on as I have been asked recently by a national newspaper to write a series of articles and have been researching these particular topics for over 5 years and have quite a bit of knowledge as I was able to develop many prominent contacts on the subjects.

    But to those of you that do not currently go back to some of the archived articles on Copyblogger, I recommend that you do so because even though the titles of the articles may sound “juvenile” for example “How To Read: the articles are loaded with great info that we all can use in our daily live. This particular articles not only refers to books, but newspapers and magazines and so on. So, kudos to Copyblogger for being one of the absolute best sites that I have come across in the year as I have been making a list on the ones I am going to keep as I have over 200 on my igoogle page as I have degrees in many different area and I am currently working on two additional degrees, SURPRISE one is journalism.

    Many say that journalism is dead but blogging is alive. I personally do not feel that is true as believe many of you would agree that we all still need and want journalists to keep on writing for us and keep us informed and there are many types of journalists, not just the newspaper journalists.

    So COPYBLOGGER KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK WITH YOUR AMAZING SITE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO COPYBLOOGGER EMPLOYEES AND ALL OF YOU OUT THERE READING THIS COMMENT. Thank you for taking the time to read my comment as I can be a bit long-winded but that is the law degree in me that got me to “Yack” a great deal.

    Best of health, happiness and prosperity to everyone out there in the New Year!
    Deb

  83. P.S.
    To all those who left links in their comments to their own sites…KUDOS to you all to. I have gone to a great deal of them and they are fantastic. I hoope to get a handle on the WordPress
    http://codex.wordpress.org/Main_Page
    and have read this info on the link above as I know I can do it without all of the reading of this but I want to design and do it all so that my readers love it since after all, that is my concern, all of you that will be reading it. Also, I want it to be “attractive” and organized so that I do this blog and it is my first one, but I want it to be c. When I do something, if you can’t already tell, I do it with a passion and I just won a class action suit that I initiated and got a National law passed through the House practically with the Senators and Congressmen and two other passionate people and am now working on getting it passed through the Senate. All of this is volunteer work and I do not get a dime, but satisfaction and helping others is a reward in itself BIG TIME!

    I once again wish you all well, keep up the great work with your sites and Happy New Year!
    Deb

  84. Amazing article, surprising since I don’t know how to good read. Sometime just read and don’t know what is the main topics.

  85. Most of us are so caught up in writing our own blogs,
    we probably have forgotten the great art of reading.
    Reading should be a joy not a chore.

  86. Damn. How come I didnt come across this blog earlier? It will be so helpful in my preparing a presentation on reading for learning and benefiting. Me too hadnt known about the great book by Adler, How to Read. I learned about it through my google search for ‘serious reading’ and from there to this blog.
    I am going to have it as soon as possible.
    Thanks Brian for the additional insight.

  87. Here are some ways you can improve your reading:

    Try Reading Out Loud This doesn’t necessarily work for everyone – and it can slow you down – but hearing the text (especially if you’re a more auditory learner) can help you better understand what you’re reading.

    Look Stuff Up If there’s a word or phrase or reference you don’t understand, then take the time to look it up. Again, this will initially take a bit of time, but in the long run you’ll be saving yourself more time because you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re reading.

    Get Rid of Distractions Find a quiet place to read, void of distractions. Your mind needs to be able to focus on the task at hand.

    Ask Questions Perhaps the best way to increase overall reading comprehension is to ask questions. This may mean coming up with questions beforehand (or finding a good reading guide) or it may mean asking questions as you go. This will keep you engaged in your reading and help make sure the information is being processed well.

  88. This post is a great read on something as basic as reading, yet something which is very influential in how we do as writers, online bloggers, analysts of any nature, business people etc.

    Yes, reading online is very different from other reading. You are right, people do not read word for word while online, tending to scan through. For long, I considered myself to be an analytical and thorough reader. But ever since I started writing and reading online, I feel like my “reading” has deteriorated. A book has to be very engrossing, otherwise I tend to lose concentration and scan though each page!

    I came across your blog today and I loved this post! Thanks for an interesting post.

  89. I typically read to get the point which additionally involves me analysing the point. I’m not sure I ever broke it down so scientifically as in the article. Also, it depends on the material. If I’m reading a technical programming book, it’s usually tough going to understand all the bits. And with technical material which you want to apply, being imprecise is not good. If I’m reading a Tweet, I think it’s pretty quick and easy to get to the point and to get the point. The above article was somewhere between a Tweet and for example “How to program in PHP”.

  90. We know it, at least most of us do.You have to make strategic decisions about what to read and how to read it. You’re reading for particular reasons: to get background on important issues, to illuminate some of the central issues in a single session of one course, to raise questions for discussion. That calls for a certain kind of smash-and-grab approach to reading.You can’t afford to dilly-dally and stop to smell the lilies. You might not think that’s the ideal way to learn, and I would sort of agree. But on the professiorial side of things, we feel a real obligation to cover a particular field of knowledge in the course of a semester, and we can’t do it all through lectures. Nor would I personally want to talk at my students day in and day out.

  91. GREAT article… I’m still convinced that the more you read as a child, the FAR more intelligent you become overall. I’ve heard of those who never had proper schooling but have learned how to read and just do it all the time — they’re more impressive than 90% of people I know.

  92. Why would there be a book on how to read?

  93. I’ve recently deployed a smartphone app and I’m learning about the world of smartphones. Your “Scanners and Pleasure Seekers” section is particularly true for smartphone users.