Saturday, September 14, 2019

What Makes Reading Hard?

Easy Reading is damn hard writing.
Nathanial Hawthorne
I love reading, love both fictional and non-fictional stories, love finding information, but along the way I've found some reading excruciating to understand. If you've ever tried to read the 'read this' agreement on all types of Internet usages, you know what I mean. Mix legalese terminologies into any text and you have loads of readers who just won't.

Terminology and how it is used is one of the biggest problems in text readability. With thousands of words, some remain unknown to most readers. Do you know what the words thole, opusculum, moiety, or fantod mean? They have all been Merriam Webster Word of the Day words. I must admit I was not familiar with these words' meanings. Unfamiliar words make reading hard. If it slows my reading, it might make me close the book. 

Like law, every business has terminology associated with the business. If you are in the business, you have no trouble reading articles or magazines devoted to that business. Those unfamiliar will have to thole through the reading.

Have I used unusual terminology in my stories? Yes. Usually, I follow with a short phrase of definition, but in science fiction, I've occasionally made-up words. In those instances, I try to make it clear what the word means by how it is used. 

How sentences and paragraphs are organized is also important to easy reading. Paragraphs lasting a page or more or very long sentences can diminish a reader's interest in reading.

The time frame of the author and when they wrote their story or essay also affects readability. Writings from long ago put sentences together differently, slowing down and confusing the modern reader. Constant use of passive sentences and old-fashioned phraseology makes reading difficult and often bore readers (a major sin for an author).

Okay, so poor grammar and mechanics makes reading difficult, too. Misused homonyms, misplaced modifiers, and overuse of particular words affect readers, but this is why repeated editing is so important.

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