Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Everyday English 1
Everyday English 1

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5.1 To read or not to read

As you saw in Section 2, there are techniques you can use to decide whether or not to read a text. By skimming and scanning texts you can see quite quickly whether you want or need to read further.

For example, every text message you receive requires you to make a decision: do you need to reply or not? This will depend on the purpose of the message. If the text is from a friend asking how you are, you will probably reply. If it is from a friend telling you when they can meet you later, you may not need to reply. In both cases you are deciding what to do with the information.

When an advert for a takeaway lands on your doormat you have to decide whether to keep it or throw it away. This decision will depend on whether you like that kind of food or always go to another restaurant. Alternatively, you might ring them immediately and order food. In this case their persuasion has worked perfectly.

Other texts must be dealt with in some way. You have to respond to the letter that is sent to all homes each year by local councils asking for confirmation about voters in the house or you might be fined.

The email or letter you receive from your car insurance company telling you when your insurance will be renewed can be ignored if you are happy with your current insurance or you can decide to reply and cancel it and shop around.

You make decisions like this every day without really giving it much thought. Being an active and aware reader means that you should pay a little more attention to these texts and the decisions you make about what to do with the information they contain.

Activity 31 Skim, scan, read, ignore?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Look at each of the labels below and decide whether you would most likely read it in full, skim or scan it, or ignore it. Then drag it to the relevant column.

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Take a look at your three columns. Are there any texts in the ‘Ignore’ column that perhaps need more attention? Or any in the other two columns that perhaps need less attention?