TYPOGRAPHY AND READING STRATEGY . . . . . .
Robert Waller Institute of Educational Technology The Open University, U.K.
Typography may be broadly defined as "the visual attributes of written language." Although at a certain level of analysis a spoken sentence may be said to be roughly the same as its written equivalent, it is never exactly the same in substance or effect. Writing both diminishes and enhances: diminshes because it offers only a crude and unreliable version of vocal pitch, timing, gesture, and tone; and enhances through spatial organization, graphic emphasis, and through the clues about its origin offered by the tool used to write, whether an aerosol or a computer display. It is typography that has both enhanced and diminished the subtlety of the message.
We can go further and say that there are some kinds of written language that have no spoken equivalent: A table, for example, contains the potential for a large number of interactions between row and column headings. A skilled reader of tables can perceive patterns in the data such as would be impossible should the information be read out aloud -- in the case of a large table, a long and tedious process. The reading of tables demands a greatly more active and purposeful involvement of the reader than does the relatively passive process of scanning Sequential prose -- it is hard to conceive of a bottom-up model of table reading. Instead, as Wright ( 1981) argues, the reading of a table involves the purposeful application of a conscious strategy by a reader in possession of appropriate skills.____________________