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.

Free course

Everyday English 1

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).


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?


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371