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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Theory #12: Readerly Theories: Readability

Quick post on readability.

I belong to quite a few email lists and messageboards, and routinely visit quite a few blogs. And I've noticed something. Quite aside from the complexity of language involved, some things are more readable than others.

It's all in the length of the paragraphs.

It doesn't matter if the author has the most lyrical prose on the planet, if the paragraphs are more than a dozen or so lines long, I'm going to start to skim.

I'm a bit chagrined to realize this. It seems so... lazy.

But I suspect I'm not alone. Given that they possess a decent vocabulary, I think most people would find short paragraphs full of big words and compound sentences more readable than one really long paragraph composed of short words in short simple sentences.

It's about the physical act of looking at the words, not about the mental act of comprehending them. The eye gets tired of line after line of unbroken type.

I'm wondering now if age plays a factor as well--if it's easier for younger eyes to follow long paragraphs, or if it's a more universal phenomenon.

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Comments:
Hah! you really are a theory slut. Just look at all of 'em. ;o)
 
Heh. Yes. I have a theory for everything--I've only recently started posting them here to spare friends and family from having to listen to me pontificate.
 
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