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Perea, M. & Gomez, P. (2012) Subtle increases in interletter spacing facilitate the encoding of words during normal reading.PLoS ONE 7(10): e47568. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047568
— They only measured eye movements. No comprehension accuracy. Disappointing. However, it’s data does point towards possibly refuting the significance one of our oldest adages: “Any man who would letterspace blackletter would steal sheep.” ~Goudy, F. (1936).
Several recent studies have revealed that words presented with a small increase in interletter spacing are identified faster than words presented with the default interletter spacing (i.e., w a t e r faster than water). Modeling work has shown that this advantage occurs at an early encoding level. Given the implications of this finding for the ease of reading in the new digital era, here we examined whether the beneficial effect of small increases in interletter spacing can be generalized to a normal reading situation.
We conducted an experiment in which the participant’s eyes were monitored when reading sentences varying in interletter spacing: i) sentences were presented with the default (0.0) interletter spacing; ii) sentences presented with a +1.0 interletter spacing; and iii) sentences presented with a +1.5 interletter spacing.
Results showed shorter fixation duration times as an inverse function of interletter spacing (i.e., fixation durations were briefest with +1.5 spacing and slowest with the default spacing).
Subtle increases in interletter spacing facilitate the encoding of the fixated word during normal reading. Thus, interletter spacing is a parameter that may affect the ease of reading, and it could be adjustable in future implementations of e-book readers.