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Line length and reading performance

A study by SURL examines the effects of line length on reading performance. Twenty colleage-ages students read news articles displayed in 35, 55, 75, or 95 characters per line (cpl) from a computer monitor. Reading rates were found to be fastest at 95 cpl.

Users indicated a strong preference for either short or long line lengths. Some participants reported that they felt like they were reading faster at 35 cpl, although this condition resulted in the slowest reading speed.

Links:

  • The article The Effects of Line Length on Reading Online News Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - July 22, 2005

See also: Text (24)  Research (129) 

 

COMMENTS

When I see a multi-choice study that shows a trend that gradually improves to the most extreme tested case, I have to wonder, what is the limit of that trend? Would people be happier with 115 cpl? What about 130?

I realize eventually we get to a point where we have to consider whether or not the brain would be better off reading a continuous stream of text that is one line. There's less time the brain has to do to accommodate resetting to the beginning of the next line, and less compromising for the saccades our eyes do when reading. Instead, they can be done at regular intervals, with no need for inconsistency.

Jonathan Johnson | August 24, 2005

 

Reading rates were found to be fastest at 95 cpl.

Fastest! But who says 95cpl makes people happiest? Fastest is not the same as happiest.
A lot of people online skim documents, I dont think 95cpl is good for skimming. Or is it?

Robert | November 01, 2005

 

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