An easy way of reading for detail

It’s unlikely that you will need to read more than a few paragraphs in this style. Most of the time, you will be skimming or scanning first. Once you have found the information you want, then you will need to switch to reading for detail. Here’s how to do it.

1. Read the whole paragraph without stopping. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all yet, the following steps will help with that.

2. Once you have read the paragraph. Come back to the sentences that you don’t understand. Underline any words you don’t understand in those sentences and think about which other word you could use to replace them and make a sentence that you do understand.

This is guessing from context and is a very important skill to develop as it will help you learn to read faster and more fluently.

3. When you have already tried guessing the word you don’t understand from context, go back an check with a dictionary just to make sure you were right.

Learning to read for detail like this takes time to start with and you may be tempted just to look all the words up straight away in your dictionary. Try not to, though. Remember, you won’t always have a dictionary with you wherever you go, so it’s very important to invest the time in learning to read for detail and guess from context.

This is part of my improve your English reading skills series.

Improve your English reading skills – Part 3: Scan-reading

timetableContinuing with our Improve your English reading skills series, this week let’s look at scan-reading.

When do we ‘scan’?

We scan-read when we already know what information we are looking for. For example:

  • when we are reading a train timetable
  • when we are looking for an entry in a dictionary
  • when we are looking for a name in a phone book
  • when we are looking for information on a specific point in a non-fiction book

How to do it:

  • Don’t read every word, just look for keywords related to the information you need.
  • Don’t just read from left to right. It’s important to be flexible when scanning. Sometimes looking from the top to the bottom of the page to find the title, subtitle, or information you are looking for is more efficient.
  • Don’t let irrelevant information distract you. Focus on what you are looking for and ignore parts of the text that are not related to it.
  • Be prepared to change your reading style. Once you spot the information you need, you will need to change your reading style and focus on reading for detail. We’ll look at that aspect in more detail next week. After you have found out whatever it was you were looking for, you can switch back to scanning and continue reading through the rest of the document.

What documents have you ‘scan-read’ recently?

Today’s image is by Monique.

Improve your English reading skills – Part 2: Skim reading

magazinesLast week, we had a look at different types of English reading skills. This week, let’s focus on skim reading in more detail. Skim reading is a useful skill to develop and it’s easy to learn.

The most common uses of skim reading are:
browsing the news
reading a magazine
looking through long e-mails
looking at adverts

How to do it:
Look at the title to get an idea of the context.
Don’t try to understand every individual word. Read quickly and try to understand the general meaning.
In long paragraphs, focus on the beginning and end.
In short paragraphs, focus on the most important words.
Don’t stop halfway through. You’ll forget where you were and need to change to a different style of reading to find your place again.

Learning to skim well will help you improve your English reading skills in two ways. Firstly, you will be able to read faster. Secondly, you will find it helps you develop your skills at guessing new words from context.

What have you skim read today?

This is part of my ‘Tuesday Tips‘ series. Every Tuesday, I share a simple tip on how to improve your language skills. Some of these are techniques I use with students in class and others are things I’ve found work well when learning languages myself. If you decide to try them out, let me know how they went by leaving a comment below the article. Click here to see some more tips on how to improve your English.

Today’s image is by Sanja Gjenero.

Improve your English reading skills – Part 1: Styles of reading

readingBefore you can start to improve your English reading skills, you need to decide on which which styles of reading you will use most and where your strengths and weaknesses are.

Let’s have a look at the four main styles of reading and work out which aspects you need to work on in order to improve your English reading skills overall.

1. Skimming – This is when you read quickly, just trying to get an impression of the overall meaning of a text.
Examples: reading a newspaper or magazine, looking at an advert.

2. Scanning – When you ‘scan’, you are looking for a specific piece of information within the text.
Examples: looking at a timetable to find out when your train leaves, looking for a number in a phone book.

3. Reading for detail – This is when you pay attention to every single word and spend time thinking about what each individual sentence means.
Examples: reading a grammar explanation, reading the instructions for an exercise in a textbook.

4. Reading for a deeper meaning – This is when you read quickly through a long text and think about the overall meaning. You might consider that there is some hidden deeper meaning. Maybe it relates to another topic or maybe it is making some kind of political statement.
Example: reading a novel.

Try some of the examples I have mentioned here and find out which areas you feel most comfortable with and which you need to work on.

Why are you learning English and which of these skills do you think you will need to use most?

Once you have decided which of these types of English reading skills you need to work on, you will be able to focus on it and really start making some major improvements.

Over the next four weeks, I’ll be going into each of these skills in more detail so remember to check back to see all the latest updates.

This is part of my ‘Tuesday Tips‘ series. Every Tuesday, I share a simple tip on how to improve your language skills. Some of these are techniques I use with students in class and others are things I’ve found work well when learning languages myself. If you decide to try them out, let me know how they went by leaving a comment below the article. Click here to see some more tips on how to improve your English.

Today’s image is by Zsuzsanna Kilian.