“Constantly processing snippets of text and video might be changing our ability to think deeply,”

Maryanne Wolf, an expert in language processing, says.

As people spend more time writing in snippets – Facebook posts, text messages, and clipped email — Wolf … “My major worry is that, confronted with a digital glut of immediate information that requires and receives less and less intellectual effort, many readers will have neither the time nor the motivation to think through the possible layers of meaning in what they read,” Wolf said in an essay for Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. She said people need to pull back from “the incessant need to fill every millisecond with new information.” Speed reading, she said, is not necessarily desirable for deep thought.

Wolf, a psychologist and the director of the Tufts University Center for Reading and Language Research, explained that over many years, we form an expert reading-brain circuitry that allows us to go beyond the text and analyze the content, draw conclusions, and produce new thoughts. She says we need to recognize what we might be losing when we skim text so rapidly that the deep-thinking processes don’t kick in, and we lose the opportunity to reach our own important insights.

Said Wolf: “Sound bites, text bites, and mind bites are a reflection of a culture that has forgotten or become too distracted by and too drawn to the next piece of new information to allow itself time to think.” Words we might want to, well, think about.


Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available here at Amazon.com.

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