Line Breaks & Comprehension

Those familiar with tiered versions and/or embedded readings will know that the difference between two of the first levels is often putting double-spaced sentences into paragraph form. I always knew this was to help the eye with clarity, and avoid intimidated by a giant block of text. However, I just discovered something else…

I was testing out a new novella with someone who understood the first sentence above just fine, yet hesitated on the second. In fact, comprehension broke down altogether, not just slowed down. Was it the cognate? Nope. Was it word order? Nope. When I asked about where they were stuck, the response was “because ‘Syra’ is spelled differently.” That was interesting to me, and so I pointed out how they understood “Syra’s response” just fine and that they were the same spelling. They didn’t even notice the first phrase, but were stuck on the second. Strange! But then I hit return and asked if they could see the similarity between the two, thinking it was just going to draw attention to the spelling (i.e. inflection). However, they said that now they could see the “whole phrase as one,” and it was the physical distance of the two words being separated that got in the way.

So, the line break was enough to throw off the flow of a beginner Latin reader. This means that using them in the first tiered readings and/or embedded readings aren’t only for clarity and to invite the reader (vs. scare them off with block text). They’re also for supporting comprehension itself.

I plan to include more line breaks in writing from now on. Of course, we won’t always be able to keep an entire idea on a single line. Then again, is that a sign that sentences are too long for the level? When a sentence is longer, then, the trick is to keep phrases together, continuing onto the next line in a place that makes sense for comprehension.

4 thoughts on “Line Breaks & Comprehension

  1. I’m dyslexic, so I rewrite all Latin that I am reading into short lines (like the second version). And it is especially challenging when the last word of a line, and the first word of the next line begin with the same letter. My eye will probably skit to the next line (already read that word, monks made this mistake in copying manuscripts). I first saw this (lining by phrase) in ebooks by Claude Pavur (he calls it pari-passu). Then I am dealing with Latin, and not just reading problems. (Once I am familiar with something, lining doesn’t mater any more. So in tiered readings, it doesn’t mater so much that the last version may be in straight paragraph form.) That’s my experience

  2. Good one! I had naturally done that because to me, it seemed like it looked “easier” if it was a list of short sentences. Then in the higher leveled tiers the sentences are strung together into “regular” paragraphs. I think Carol Gaab or one of the other gurus – Laurie Clarq – demonstrates this too. Good one!

  3. Pingback: First Text: A Year To Year Comparison | Magister P.

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