Have you ever read something and realized that, while you knew it subconsciously, it didn’t fully register in your mind until you read it? That happened to me this week while reading Brian Clark’s How to Read article.
Clark describes four levels of reading: elementary, inspectional, analytical and syntopical. His argument is that reading is essentially a responsibility in which the amount of effort we choose to dedicate affects the level of understanding we achieve.
What struck me most about his article was his description of the syntopical, or highest level of reading. He explains that in this level of reading, you not only gain an understanding of the material as the author depicted it, but you gain an understanding of the material in the context of your own environment and experiences. After reflecting on Clark’s piece, I realized that I have subconsciously experienced syntopical reading, making my own connections and meanings from readings that gave me a unique understanding of those readings that only I possess. I was fascinated to learn that there was a term for a process I had been doing unknowingly.
Moving on, I want to highlight another point I learned this week, which is to not bury the lead. It’s so important to come strong out of the gate with the point of your writing so that people know why they came and why they want to stay to hear more. Moreover, given what we know about the levels of reading from the Clark article, we know that the less we bury the lead, the better the chance that our readers will reach the analytical and syntopical stages where our writings will be tools of enhancement to their understandings of greater issues/situations/environments, and not just temporary pieces of interest.