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Faith Florer, Amy Preston; Optimal letterspacing for reading can be learned. Journal of Vision 2002;2(7):33. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/2.7.33.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A previous study found that graphic designers read nonstandard letter spacing more quickly than other people, suggesting that people can learn to read nonstandard letter spacing at near-normal rates (Hunter-Kahn & Florer, ARVO, 2000). To examine this suggestion directly, in this study subjects practiced reading Bookman text with a letter spacing of 3.25 M spaces (letter spacing 2.7 times wider than standard Bookman letter spacing), for a period of 10 days, for 30 seconds a day. On the first day of practice, mean reading rate for the nonstandard spaced text was 101 words per minute (wpm). After training, mean reading rate rose to 158 wpm. These higher reading rates did not differ significantly, t = 0.65, p(1) < .01, from the mean reading rate (165 wpm) for standard spaced Bookman text. To examine whether what the subjects learned had generality, reading rates for the subjects were then assessed on a series of eight other nonstandard-spaced Bookman texts, and on standard spaced Bookman text. Reading performance on these other texts did not differ from non-practiced subjects, nor did reading rates improve on Bookman text with standard letter spacing. Another subject read a Bookman font with different letter spacing for 10 days (nine different letter spacings). Her reading rate for standard spaced text (152 wpm) did not differ from her rate for standard spaced text prior to practicing (150 wpm). These results suggest that subjects can learn to read nonstandard letter spacing within a period of two weeks, but that the ability to generalize reading performance from one letter spacing to another may be limited.
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