An introduction to
by Dave Knight
This introduction will show you that the Friendly Type® format lets you read with less eye motion,
and that Friendly Type makes reading livelier, more rhythmic, and easier to comprehend.
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Read more about
the evolution of Friendly Type click here.®
First, let's look at how we have
been reading for centuries
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conventional text, our eyes make a number of
"fixations", while reading each line. During each fixation we
take in a number of letters or words across.
This is what it looks like:
Our eyes see in
small circles or ovals of very sharp
foveal zone) and in larger areas of focus sharp enough for us to
recognize words (the parafoveal zone). The width of this sharp-enough
area controls the length of each horizontal or vertical eye movement we
must make to the next stop to read more words.
When reading conventional text, we are in danger of
recognizing words in the line above or the line below, if they fall
our "sharp-enough" zone. We must concentrate to avoid reading
irrelevant words. After each stop, we make a move, or
the next reading point. At the end of each line, we make a
"return sweep" back to the beginning of the next line. But
sometimes we reread the prior line, or skip a line entirely, by
mistake. The awkwardness of this process has been recognized for
over a century.
How is Friendly Type different?
In Friendly Type, words are arranged in clusters. Reading Friendly Type, we fix on the
first cluster of words. If the cluster is small,
we may take it in in a single fixation, especially if we have practice
at reading Friendly Type. Or we may make a few short, small moves to get the
whole cluster. The words above and below, which we may also see,
relate to the same
idea, so we do not risk confusion.
Then we make a move down to
the next cluster. This move is usually much shorter than the
typical horizontal move in conventional reading.
complete a column, we make an upward sweep to the next column.
Since there are a few columns on each page, the risk of going to the
wrong column, and rereading or skipping material, is much
This is an
example of reading text both in conventional format and Friendly Type:
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see why we say Friendly Type is "easy on the eyes".
For an example of text in Friendly Type, try reading the familiar Alice in Wonderland.
Note that in the FT Reader, the Controls panel at the top right has navigation, font size, word lookup and other features. For more information on using the controls in FT Reader see here.
For some readers, comfort in reading Friendly Type comes at once. For most,
however, it is a process that takes time and familiarization.
After all, we have been reading for many years before we encounter
Friendly Type. So learning can take a little time. But the rewards are
But that's not all...
Friendly Type makes reading livelier. Reading words in "thought
groups" makes it easier to feel the passion of the writer. Like
the ladies in this 1909 painting by Henri Matisse, the
clusters dance into your mind,
whether you are reading aloud or to yourself.
It's got Rhythm!
Friendly Type imparts a cadence to the reading.
Because the text
is separated into grammatically reasonable clusters, the gaps between
clusters may correspond with where a
speaker or storyteller would pause for a breath before
proceeding. The rhythmic effect of oral storytelling can
enhance the listener's experience. Like the Haitian painting
here, Friendly Type adds a rhythm that seems to be present whether you are reading
listening to someone else read aloud.
The cadence makes Friendly Type an attractive medium for someone who must make a
lot of speeches. Friendly Type helps determine where to pause, and
readers/speakers seem to have less difficulty with keeping their place
Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address in Friendly
Friendly Type works with your brain, not against it. By
clusters from text that has been analyzed for grammatical
structure, Friendly Type makes it easier to understand the meaning of each
sentence. Here are two sentences from the 9/11 Commission
Second, the new division intended to
strengthen the FBI’s strategic analysis capability faltered. It
received insufficient resources and faced resistance from senior
managers in the FBI’s operational divisions.
Here are the same sentences in Friendly Type format:
the new division
strengthen the FBI’s
and faced resistance
from senior managers
in the FBI’s
The clusters are chosen to make understanding easier. The words
in each cluster are a “thought group”, words that belong
together. For example, the second cluster is a dependent clause,
vital to the meaning, but separable. When “faltered” is isolated,
the meaning is clearer.
tell us that it is often hard to be sure which character is speaking,
when there is a lot of dialogue. Friendly Type allows an editor to assign a
unique type font to each speaker. For easy reference, each
can be named in a footnote in his/her
assigned font. See how easy it is to recognize the individual speakers in Peter Pan.
When Friendly Type is used with scripts for drama, for example,
Speakerfonts helps each
actor to spot his/her own
lines and cues more easily. And the cluster layout leads him/her
his/her lines with correct emphasis from the start.
See more on Friendly Type for scripts here.
All well and good, but what can Friendly Type do for someone who is a struggling reader?
A story from a struggling reader who found Friendly Type:
This is a story about a little girl named Francine. She is 12
years old, and "not much of a reader" according to her friends.
One day not long ago she sat down with a book. She read it
from cover to cover in an hour or so. She enjoyed the book and
Why? Because the book was more
approachable. The words were clustered together, with white
space between the clusters. It was not forbidding. After she
finished each cluster, her eyes moved down to the next cluster.
The eye movements were shorter than she was used to, and
less tiring. And she thinks she remembers the book better than
other books she has read.
Francine's story is important. The book she read was in
Friendly TypeŽ format. It seemed better to her. Perhaps it
would seem better to you or your children.
You can use Friendly Type in FT Pacer mode, which helps you stay focused:
The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, in FT Pacer, a reading format designed to help keep you on track. Also, to minimize distractions completely, try full screen mode with the Controls closed.
Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie, in FT Pacer
For more information about how Friendly Type can be used for books, feel free to call the Cambridge Reading Project at 1-800-242-2468.
You can learn more about how Friendly Type can be used to meet your needs at
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