Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

I read 425 words per minute

This might be the most eye-catching blog post title I’ve ever come up with. It may also be the easiest. It’s certainly accurate. I know I’m reading at this speed because Spritz Reader tells me so.

An intriguing post (with a similar title, I admit) from the Rescuetime blog challenged me to try reading way faster than I thought I could. Based on the test in the post, I found I read just under 300 words per minute under “normal” circumstances.

I understood the premise of Spritz once I viewed the one-minute video on this page, so I clicked on the Get Spritz link and promptly installed the Spritzlet on Safari. I also downloaded Rapid Reader (nominal cost) to try it out with Pocket, an app to which I save web articles for offline reading. Now, I open Rapid Reader instead of Pocket to read those stored articles using the Spritz system.

In both cases, I could adjust the speed at which I read. This software is, frankly, freaky and phenomenal in its simplicity. I pumped up the speed to 450 wpm and found I could keep up. I sprinted through a Toronto Raptors game recap at 500 wpm.

Spritz Reader does have some shortcomings:

  • Like software that reads text aloud, Spritz can’t handle infographics.
  • It doesn’t work without an Internet connection, something I learned while sitting in a barber chair.
  • One particular Forbes article wouldn’t work through Spritz because Forbes inserts full-page graphic ads before it brings up the article you want to read. I wish Spritz could click past such ad as quickly as I do, or just flash a message saying “Your article will appear in 15 seconds.”
  • Spritz isn’t yet incorporated into all the software I use to read text on my electronic devices. In some cases, there’s a workaround: Rapid Reader syncs with Pocket and delivers its content via Spritz. Rapid Reader also handles several “reader apps” besides Pocket, and I hope it plugs into things like iBooks and apps for magazines and newspapers. Those application developers might also one day make Spritz part of their own software, saving users the trouble.
  • Spritz doesn’t hook up to email either, though most of the email I read tends to be short enough that it wouldn’t make a difference.

Where Spritz shines is in mid-length to long-form documents (about 1,000 words and up) where you want to more quickly get the gist of what’s written without worrying much about whether you retain it or not (at least on the first read-through). This accounts for a lot of the reading that I do. I see myself spending much less time reading articles on my iPad, iPod Touch and Mac.

I’d say I’m going to test Spritz, but there isn’t much to test, or learn. Install the software, authorize it if need be, and go. Most users ought to get the hang of it in less than the advertised five minutes.

Have you found any systems that help you “speed read” or at least read faster? How much time did it take for you to learn those methods? Would you recommend them? Let me know in the comments below.