easier to read because it's easier to see. or not?

bowerbird's picture

easier to read because it's easier to see. or not?

> http://liveink.com


russellm's picture




I think
. . . that
. . is a
. . . . lot
of hooey.

And a sly plot to turn everything into free-form poetry.


eliason's picture

I vote "not," too.

Jongseong's picture

The way they presented it actually makes it harder to read, I think, because the line breaks are way too frequent. Jumping from the end of one line to the start of the next is quite tiring when you have to do it several times to read a single sentence. It breaks up any rhythm for immersive reading.

Believe it or not, I do think there is some potential in this technology, specifically the algorithm for breaking up sentences into meaningful bits. It would help for reading a text in a language you are learning, because parsing sentences in a foreign language can be difficult. Also, this might be helpful in determining more logical places for line-breaks in composing some forms of paragraphs, perhaps ragged text with massive degrees of freedom in line lengths.

Si_Daniels's picture



bojev's picture


Thomas Phinney's picture

I don't like it offhand, and I don't really expect it to work, but I would hold off judgment in the absence of actual testing. It *might* work.

I'd be curious to hear what Kevin Larson thinks of this.



cerulean's picture

Maybe. They did well in choosing Melville as a proof of concept. No force on earth would make me read Moby Dick, but I read through the whole sample they provided without hating it at all. Though that's equal to, what, the first page?

The medical abstract, however, belied the algorithm's weaknesses. Some sentences were presented in a way that did not logically match their true sentence structure, causing confusion; for instance,
"RAPA was developed to provide an [easily administered and interpreted] means..."
seems to become
"RAPA was developed [to provide an easily administered (what?)] and interpreted..."

Bendy's picture

Interesting because the em-space indentations make me unavoidably pause slightly before reading each line.

  • (Like bullet points
  • for each line)

The effect is dramatic staccato reading that destroys mood, rhythm and flow.

If I was scanning for a general understanding of a passage, however, it might be useful?

Mark Simonson's picture

I'm sure this was discussed on Typophile a couple of years ago, probably when it first appeared (note the 2007 copyright date on the site). Obviously, it's caught on like wildfire.

Si_Daniels's picture

Good memory, Mark - and hard to find, but yes Yves mentioned it here... http://typophile.com/node/34343

Kevin Larson's picture

I don’t enjoy the appearance of the very frequent line breaks, but the key technology that they are showing here is that they are marking off all the phrases within a sentence. Understanding the syntax of a sentence is a major component of comprehension, and the line breaking is helping with that. Eye tracking research shows that we fixate on the last word of a sentence or phrase longer than expected. We seem to try to process one phrase at a time as we read. There have been studies as early as the 1950s showing that indicating phrase boundaries improves reading speed and comprehension. The effect is more pronounced with normal, adult readers on the poorer end of the comprehension spectrum and with children.

Cheers, Kevin

eliason's picture

Has this been tried   with increased horizontal spacing   instead of line breaks?   (With stacked lines   I suppose   you'd run into   distracting holes in the paragraph.)

aluminum's picture

No, bowerbird...your posts are still painful to read. ;o)

Kevin Larson's picture

Phrases have been marked with extra horizontal space, and horizontal space also works. Tom Bever did a lot of work on this in the late 80s and early 90s using extra horizontal space. His work was primarily about understanding which phrases had the largest impact on reading speed and comprehension. Unfortunately extra horizontal space doesn’t look fantastic either.

Don McCahill's picture

Not. But I'm sure someone was awarded a Masters or a PhD based on the research, and it appears that some clever business types were able to get startup money from a venture capitalist.

I found it hard to read due to bad breaks and short line lengths. But we are all a fairly literate group here (only 1/50th of the spelling/grammar errors I see on other boards). Perhaps it becomes more effective for poor readers.

If so, we will soon see it adopted by the public school systems, where they have no compunction against slowing down the top 80% if it might be effective to the bottom 5%.

eliason's picture

Reading this
makes my brain
sound like
Christopher Walken.

Si_Daniels's picture

I was thinking

nina's picture



Yaronimus-Maximus's picture

for me, as a person who reads english as a second language,
even long sentences such as here in typophile can be hard to read.
sometimes the meaning is lost in a sea of words, and i have to re-read the sentences.

so this gadget should be helpful, but the short sentence breaks the syntax of the text and diminishes the original art of typesetting. suddenly the text has no meaning and i have to re-read it and try to re-create what was originaly intended.

the result sounds like a dying robot..

have no


nina's picture

"like a dying robot.."

Now I know what it reminds me of:
Daisy, Dai…sy…

paragraph's picture

I believe that
this would be
really useful for
reading in Geman

nina's picture

Oh, absolutely,
because our
sentence structure
is such that
it would
for example
for very long
and contorted
and hard to understand
and kind of backwards
(and complex
– if you know what I mean
and are actually reading
these poetic lines –)

Seriously, that's a good point that (I think) demonstrates how futile the attempt is to visually group text into those little bites that make sense. Because language doesn't necessarily proceed in a linear fashion. Often the opposite is true; as Yaronimus said, this breaks the syntax.
Now German does often have horrid sentence structure in that regard, like putting the verb in the end of subordinate clauses. That can make for strange surprises a bit akin to what I tried to do above; and I don't think this model would help comprehension of such sentences, more like the opposite. :-\

paragraph's picture

It might just be
  that some people
    rely on this mind-numbing
      effect of the short lines
        to hide the fact that
          they have in fact
            nothing new to say.

Quincunx's picture

> Reading this
makes my brain
sound like
Christopher Walken.

Haha, nice one. :D

Theunis de Jong's picture

Ooof! What has he ever done to you?

He's great in Pulp F. and in Fatboy's video "Weapon of Choice"!

Quincunx's picture

> Ooof! What has he ever done to you?

He’s great in Pulp F. and in Fatboy’s video “Weapon of Choice”!

Yes, he's awesome.

Chris Dean's picture


Citation for "…Eye tracking research shows that we fixate on the last word of a sentence or phrase longer than expected. We seem to try to process one phrase at a time as we read…"?

Stiff did an interesting study on semantic line breaking. Eye tracking on top of this could show some correlational data, but in my opinion "easier to read" should be measured by things such as comprehension, time, recall, visual search &c… Not saccades and fixations. But I have to admit, the eye tracking equipment is pretty fun to use.

Stiff, P. (1996). The end of the line: a survey of unjustified typography. Information Design Journal, 8(2), 125–152.

ebensorkin's picture

Thanks for the reference Christopher.

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