Reading Scores Fail On Screen

The Communications of the ACM reports on an Ohio State study that demonstrates that people still read better on paper than online. The first group scored higher on a comprehension test after reading a paper-based article than the second group that read the same article online. In fact, a third group taking the test online scored even lower than the first two groups who took the test on paper. The authors of the study speculated that people might have to be trained to absorb information presented on a screen. Good grief!

Those of you who attended the Best Practices 2000 conference will recall Ginny Redish’s admonition that we must write differently for the Web, even if it means abandoning familiar structures like complete sentences. She urges us to look for opportunities to present

  • smaller chunks,
  • more tabular material, and
  • lots of lists (like this one).

You can read the original article in Communications of the ACM, November 2000/Vol. 43, No. 11, p. 10.