The Joy of Words

Well, last week had this in it.



For the unclickables among you, I’ll paraphrase the article I’ve linked to above: in essence, a new app is in development which allows people to read at speeds of up to 500 words per minute, mainly due to the fact that you don’t need to move your eyes at all. The app flashes the words in front of you, with one letter highlighted in red (apparently, just at the optimum point in the word for your brain to recognise and process it without even realising it’s doing so), and your eyes remain steady throughout. All you need to do is look at the red letter, and you read the word automatically.



Yeah. I’m with yonder sceptical dog.

The article I’ve linked to has a trial run of the app (called Spritz), and you can see what I’m talking about for yourself. You can also give it a go, and see how it makes you feel. For me, when I got to the 500 words per minute section, I have to admit the letters were zipping by so fast that I did miss a word or two every so often; my brain put together the sense of the sentence, all the same, but it actually felt like more work, to me, than ‘ordinary’ reading. It also made me feel like I’d just stepped off one of these:



More than that, though, it made me feel a bit sad. Has it come to this, that we’re living in a world where reading is seen as just another chore, something else to plough through at top speed so that we can get back to playing Candy Crush Saga?

I don’t know. Perhaps the app is intended for people who have to read long technical documents, or complicated legal rulings, or government papers, or something like that. I don’t deny the science behind it; certainly, it worked, exactly as it said it would. But it sucked every droplet of joy out of the act of reading, and I think that’s a retrograde step. There was no time to pause, to reflect, to luxuriate in a beautifully constructed sentence; there was no time to appreciate the skill with which the words were laced together. It was like sitting down before a gorgeous meal, prepared with love and care and painstaking effort, and just tipping the whole lot down your neck, oyster-fashion. Not only will you not enjoy the food, but you won’t enjoy the act of eating, either – the two are closely linked.

A lot like the joy of words, and the act of reading. Just in case you didn’t get the metaphor.

Then, I’m speaking as a person who reads quickly anyway, and who enjoys fluency with words. I’m aware that not everyone is like me, and perhaps this app will help some readers who find it hard to get through longer documents; if it’s useful to someone, then it’s to be welcomed, of course. But, to me, reading (for leisure, that is) should be a pleasant and immersive experience, taken at your own pace – whatever that pace may be. It should allow you time for thought and absorption, time to enjoy the words as well as the content.

Or, maybe it’s just my inner technophobe rising to the fore again.




As well as learning about Spritzing, last week was a word-filled one for me in other ways. I spent it glued to the computer going through ‘Emmeline’, making a concerted push to edit it, and repolish it, and finally reach a point where I can say: ‘Yes. This book is ready.’ It had already had five edits before I even began this process, but as late as Friday I was going through it and still seeing extraneous words, unclear descriptions, frankly stupid continuity errors and places where the dialogue could have been sharpened.

It just goes to show that an editor’s job is never done. However, a writer’s job is to get their work to a point where they can say they’ve done their best, and then let their words go. That, friends, is the challenge facing me this week.

Today is the day I start to submit ‘Emmeline.’

Quite. Image:


I am proud of my work, and I don’t think it’s wrong to say so. I am happy with ‘Emmeline’, I am glad to have written it, I love my characters and I think the story is enjoyable. Now, we’ll see what the publishing industry thinks of it, and I’ll report back to you when I have more information.

If you never hear from me again, you’ll know what happened.



5 thoughts on “The Joy of Words

  1. Kate Wally

    Hey, well done with ‘Emmeline’. For what little I’ve read of it, I have developed quite a soft spot for the characters. I look forward to one day reading the full tale. 🙂

    I know we discussed Spritz on twitter (it totally sounds like an air freshener), but it blew my mind. As you know, I’m a slow reader owing to poor reading habits in my childhood (I also sometimes wonder if I suffer from mild dyslexia) and I was amazed how fast Spritz allowed me to read. But it was more than that – I have *never* *ever* found reading so *easy*. I thought ‘wow, this is how normal people read’! I may just be willing to invest in eye-drops and experience that again 😀

    And then I’ll go buy the book. 😉

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Well, I’m glad it helped you, and if it’s something which will *give* you the joy of reading, then I am all for it. I, however, will be sticking to the old ‘over-and-back’ technique that has served me so well all these years. 😉 I reserve the right to be an awkward old curmudgeon.

      I hope it’s opened up a new world to you, I really do. I’ll look forward to your findings, if you choose to pursue a life of Spritzing! And whether you read slowly or at 500 wpm, I hope you enjoy it. x

      1. Kate Wally

        The 500wpm was a little too fast for my liking. I’d be happy to not trip over words and re-read sentences! I do wonder how easy it would be follow fiction and dialogue using this method… I also wonder if it might improve my reading generally… So very interesting. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

        ‘Awkward old curmudgeon’!? Not at all. 😉 xx

  2. Maurice A. Barry

    I, too, saw that app and had exactly the same reaction. You are right–perhaps it is well suited to some applications (I hadn’t consider that)–but overall a move to “optimize” reading in this way is likely to take away somewhat from the pure joy of reading. Let’s hope that better judgement rules the day.
    Congrats on this HUGE milestone.
    And good luck 🙂

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks, Maurice! It doesn’t feel like much, but I guess it is. Submitting work is always a big deal. I really appreciate the good luck. 🙂

      Thanks for your thoughts on the app, too. I really can’t see myself using it, now or in the future. Here’s hoping it doesn’t become the *only* way to read… 😦


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