Bad Reading Habits – Are They Really Bad?

How to recognize and overcome bad reading habits – 7 Tips

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I once read a novel by Haruki Murakami and got totally lost in the story. I didn’t care about the time I spent reading nor did I want to know how many words I read per minute. I often read a sentence twice or added imaginary details to what had happened in the story; my mind was constantly wandering around. Does this sound like bad reading habits? Not to me, I pretty much enjoyed this style of reading.

A few days later, however, I had to read five or six essays about current trends in urban planning and how technology actually impacts the way we use urban space. There’s a fair amount of information to process and memorize. I also wanted to add the best ideas to a mind map to review later.

I planned to preview and speed read those articles first and then dip into interesting details to complete missing links. I also wanted to finish this project quickly, so reading for enjoyment wasn’t a priority here. However, the same reading style I used for novel reading now actually hindered me from reading effectively. How come?

From the perspective of speed reading, the typical reading style we learned in school is often referred to as bad reading habits. Why bad? Because, if we’d changed them, we could read faster and probably retain more information.

Bad reading habits stand for less efficient reading techniques, and some will be easy to change; others may require more training and time.

9 Common Bad Reading Habits

  • One word at a time. Reading word by word resulting in too many focus stops
  • Vocalization. Moving lips or pronouncing words while reading
  • Subvocalization. Silent speech or pronouncing words in your head
  • Skipping back. Re-reading of passages without need
  • Skipping preparation steps such as previewing to get the main idea
  • Lack of comprehension, e.g. little knowledge about the topic
  • Loss of attention. Wandering mind, reading with little attention and concentration
  • Environment. Reading when tired, in stressful or low light environments
  • Individual Behavior. Skeptical attitude against fast reading

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Bad Reading Habits That Need Little Effort To Change

1. Attitude
Develop a positive attitude towards fast reading. I regularly use positive affirmations or simply visualize to read very fast. I visualize skimming material, reading chunks of words, or transforming words into pictures. I visualize all the techniques and tell my mind what to focus on.

2. Convenient environment
A workspace or room with bright light conditions will benefit your reading experience and also protect your eyes. You can speed read everywhere, however, noises and any kind of distraction tend to decrease your reading efficiency. Keep distractions on a manageable level.

3. Attention and concentration
I still experience my mind wandering off and thinking about subjects that have just sparked my interest. You probably know this kind of stuff when you had to prepare for exams. Concentration is just about discipline unless you are exhausted. If I lose attention, I will refocus and go back to the task or reading. If I lose attention again, I will refocus again.

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Bad Reading Habits That Need Some Effort To Change

4. Word group reading
These bad reading habits may require some time to break. For example, you will need to invest some time to learn reading in groups of words. Once your brain has managed to do so, you’ll actually have learned a powerful fast reading technique. Single words barely can hold an idea; four, five or six words can carry a lot more information. This technique will improve the reading pace, decrease focus stops per line, and also save your eyes from tiring.

5. Previewing
One of the first steps of accelerated reading is to preview material. It’s a useful technique because, as a reader, you want to know specifically what the main topic is about. Find relevant information before reading page by page; determine whether the text is of value or should go back onto the shelf. Previewing techniques include first sentence reading, name, number, or overview scans. Places to look at are the content page, the back page, graphs, images, diagrams, or headlines. To extract information quickly, ask yourself six simple questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.

6. Subvocalization
Do you speak the word in your head as you read it? This is called subvocalization, and (almost) everyone does it. Unfortunately, it slows down your reading pace as you cannot read faster than you can speak. You can lessen this process by learning how to read groups of words. Another method is to conceptualize words as objects so that when you read them, the associated meaning will instantly come into the mind without having to vocalize it.

7. Skipping back
I already have mentioned a skeptical attitude towards reading techniques as a way to slow down the reading pace. You may have also experienced going back in the text because you think you have missed something. Skipping back in the text and unconscious re-focusing are probably the most common bad reading habits that keep readers from performing faster. Note: This is simply discipline. Stop going back! If you do so get aware of it and continue reading. It is the same method as refocusing when losing attention. Stop it! Over time you will realize you actually have not missed anything, and even if you skip back occasionally, you will get on track in the next paragraph.

Bad Reading Habits – Conclusion

Bad reading habits are not as bad as the words may imply. They actually point out where to improve your fast reading skills. Get started with an introduction to speed reading techniques.

Learn techniques such as skimming, previewing, word group reading, or using a pointer and you will actively turn these “bad” habits into good reading skills.

You may also want to explore the benefits of using reading improvement software to fix all those bad reading habits. Enjoy!

Are there any bad reading habits missing? Let me know in the comment box below!


  1. Gbei Judith says:

    Nice one

  2. stacy kabura says:

    elaborate on vocalization or lipreading otherwise perfect

  3. Thumbs up?

  4. I was always one that pronounces words in my heads. Until I started this I never realized how much time that takes up. This has helped me a lot. I’m much faster now!

  5. Mehmood ul Saqlain says:

    All habits are mentioned but what about ‘finger movement’ and ‘head movement’. Kindly elaborate it please. Thanks

    Kindly email me the answers of these two above mentioned.

  6. Excellent point. Speed reading doesn’t equal good reading.

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