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Re: [css3-text] Hypertext Layout, Reading Speed and Comprehension

From: Peter Moulder <peter.moulder@monash.edu>
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2012 14:16:23 +1000
To: www-style@w3.org
Message-id: <20120411041623.GA3812@bowman.infotech.monash.edu.au>
For a message pertaining to readability of text and use of whitespace in
marking semantic units in text, it is perhaps unfortunate that the non-HTML
version of this post is very hard to read due to even paragraph boundaries not
being marked with extra spacing.  (OTOH, it does illustrate the importance of
spacing to comprehension.)

I've taken the liberty of reformatting the two messages starting from their
HTML versions, and appending the results to this message.

Note that some of the content does unfortunately extend outside of the scope
of www-style.


Initial message, dated Fri, 6 Apr 2012 07:10:50 +0000:

 Cascading Style Sheets Working Group,

 Greetings.  I would like to describe some topics pertaining to the 
 CSS3 text module, markup, style, rendering, layout and subsequent
 readability of text.  Topical are linguistics, psycholinguistics,
 language comprehension, reading comprehension, phrases, phrasemes,
 collocations, compound terms, sentence processing, and other
 multidisciplinary topics.  Summarily, the use of markup and style for
 text layouts which can enhance reading speed and comprehension.

 HTML5 presently has a document structure model granularity of
 paragraphs.  With regard to phrase and sentence elements and style,
 however, <span> elements are often used, e.g. <span class="phrase"> and
 <span class="sentence">, and also possible are XML elements from other
 XMLNS which can be styled using the CSS3 namespace module.

 Some authors might want to describe that the hypertext contents of
 phrase elements should be, as possible, contiguous on lines of text.
 Researchers indicate that there are advantages for so doing with regard
 to reading speed and comprehension.  For such phrase elements, the
 CSS3 style setting for text wrapping, text-wrap:avoid, indicates 
 that a "UA may only wrap at a breakpoint within the element if there are
 no other valid breakpoints in the line"
 (http://dev.w3.org/csswg/css3-text/#text-wrap).  Either that is the 
 text wrapping style for phrase elements or a new value can describe text
 wrapping for phrase elements.  Topical are combinations of text-wrapping
 settings, word-spacing settings and hyphenation settings.

 Also topical are intersentence spacing and otherwise styling for 
 sentence elements.  With regard to intersentence spacing, a variety of
 spacing that does not render at the beginnings or at the ends of lines,
 the ability to indicate a custom value with CSS3, either using length
 units, spacing units, or both, would convenience document authors with
 regard to readability, aesthetics, style guides or conventions.

 Interestingly, text layout and rendering topics pertain to both the form
 and to the function of hypertext documents including with respect to
 reading speed and comprehension.  I have included a list of publications
 detailing some studies about reading.

 Kind regards,

 Adam Sobieski

 Anglin, J. M., & Miller, G. A. (1968).. The role of phrase structure in
 the recall of meaningful verbal material. Psychonomic Science, 10,

 Beeson, P. M., & Insalaco, D. (1998). Acquired Alexia: Lessons from
 successful treatment. Journal of The International Neuropsychological
 Society, 4, 621–635.

 Bever, T. G., Jandreau, S., Burwell, R. , Kaplan, R., & Zaenan, A.
 (1990). Spacing printed text to isolate major phrases improves
 readability. Visible Language, 25, 74–87.

 Brozo, W. G. Schmeler, R. V., & Spires, H. A. (1983). The beneficial
 effect of chunking on good readers’ comprehension of expository prose.
 Journal of Reading, 27, 442–445.

 Coleman, E. B., & Kim, I. (1961). Comparison of several styles of
 typography in English. Journal of Applied Psychology, 45, 262–267.

 Cromer, W. (1970). The Difference Model: A new explanation for some
 reading difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 671–683.

 Dyson, M. C. (2004). How physical text layout affects reading from
 screen. Behaviour & IT, 23, 377-393.

 Frase, L. T. , & Schwartz, N. J. (1979). Typographical cues that
 facilitate comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 71, 197–206.

 Gerrell, H. R., & Mason, G. E. (1983). Computer-chunked and traditional
 text. Reading World, 22, 241–246.

 Glenberg, A., Willford, J., Gibson, B., Goldberg, A., & Zhu, X.  (2011).
 Improving Reading to Improve Math. Scientific Studies of Reading. 1-25.

 Graf, R., & Torrey, J. (1966). Perception of phrase structure in written
 language. Proceedings of the 74th Annual Convention of the APA, 83–84.

 Granaas, M. M. (1985). Simple, applied text parsing. Behavior Research
 Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 17, 209–216.

 Hartley, J. (2004). Designing instructional and informational text. In D.
 Jonassen, (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and
 Technology (2nd ed., pp. 917–948). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

 Hartley, J. (1980). Spatial cues in text. Visible Language, 14, 67–79.

 Hartley, J., & Burnhill, P. (1971). Experiments with unjustified text.
 Visible Language, 5, 265–278.

 Jandreau, S., & Bever, T. G. (1992). Phrase-spaced formats improve
 comprehension in average readers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77,

 Jandreau, S. M., Muncer, S. J., & Bever, T. G. (1986). Improving the
 readability of text with automatic phrase-sensitive formatting. British
 Journal of Educational Technology, 17, 128–133.

 Keenan, S. A. (1984). Effects of chunking and line length on reading
 efficiency. Visible Language, 18, 61–80.

 Klare, G. R., Nichols, W. H., & Shufford, E. H. (1957). The relationship
 of typographic arrangement to the learning of technical material. Journal
 of Applied Psychology, 41, 41–45.

 LeVasseur V. M., Macaruso, P., Palumbo, L. C., & Shankweiler, D.  (2006).
 Syntactically cued text facilitates oral reading fluency in developing
 readers. Applied Psycholinguistics, 27, 423–445.

 LeVasseur V. M., Macaruso, P., & Shankweiler, D. (2008). Promoting gains
 in reading fluency: a comparison of three approaches. Reading and
 Writing, 21, 205–230.

 Mason, J. M., & Kendall, J. R. (1979). Facilitating reading comprehension
 through text structure manipulation. The Alberta Journal of Educational
 Research, 25, 68–76.

 Muter, P. (1996). Interface design and optimization of reading of
 continuous text. In van Oostendorp, H., and de Mul, S. (Eds.) Cognitive
 aspects of electronic text processing. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex.

 Negin, G. A. (1987). The effects of syntactic segmentation on reading
 comprehension of hearing impaired students. Reading Psychology: An
 International Quarterly, 8, 23–31.

 North, A. J., & Jenkins, L. B. (1951). Reading speed and comprehension as
 a function of typography. Journal of Applied Psychology, 35, 225–228.

 O’Shea, L. T., & Sindelar, P. T. (1983). The effects of segmenting
 written discourse on the reading comprehension of low- and
 high-performance readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 18, 458–465.

 Stevens, K. C. (1981). Chunking material as an aid to reading
 comprehension. Journal of Reading, 25, 126–129.

 Taylor, N. E., Wade, M. R., & Yekovich, F. R. (1985). The effects of text
 manipulation and multiple reading strategies on the reading performance
 of good and poor readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 566–574.

 Yu, C. H., & Miller, R. M. (2010). Enhancing web page readability for
 non-native readers. Proceedings of the 28th international conference on
 Human factors in computing systems (CHI '10). ACM, New York, NY, USA,

fantasai replies, asking for a clarification of the intent of the message for
www-style readers.

Adam Sobieski replies on Sat, 7 Apr 2012 02:59:49 +0000:


 Hello.  The points that I would like to address pertain to the markup
 and style for phrases and sentences in hypertext documents and that
 hypertext layout has aspects of both form and function.

 It could either be that something like 'text-wrap:phrase' can be of use
 for the indicated scenario of phrase elements or that the existing
 setting of 'text-wrap:avoid' is.  In the current specification, there
 is section 6.1.1, illustrating phrase-controlled breaking, and
 discussion could include the senses of the word phrase there and
 intended usages.  Interesting are nested XML structures with elements
 styled with text-wrap settings and how layout engines are expected to
 layout such hypertext.  With something like 'text-wrap:phrase',
 possible [value] definitions could be:

     Line breaking is suppressed within the element: the UA may break
     within the element if there are other valid break points in the line
     using UA heuristics weighing text-wrapping, word-spacing,
     hyphenation, and other settings for resultant readable hypertext.
     If the text breaks, line-breaking restrictions are honored as for

     Line breaking is suppressed within the element: the UA may only break
     within the element if there are no other valid break points in the
     If the text breaks, line-breaking restrictions are honored as for

 Intersentence spacing is additionally a topic for a possible extension
 of the current specification.

 Kind regards,

Received on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 04:16:53 UTC

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