The writer should remember that words are tools designed to fit the system of human understanding. The reader’s brain decodes the information received, but the message received doesn’t always match what was sent. Why?
There are a few reasons, but Yellowlees Douglas, in her book The Reader’s Brain, published by Cambridge University Press (2015), focuses on the style of writing.
The American researcher’s work demonstrates how the structure of the sentence is often responsible for the activation of one brain area rather than another, thus achieving results ranging from the reader falling asleep all the way up to his highest concentration.
The value of this book, which doesn’t reveal any absolutely new viewpoints, is in its science, acquired through studying research conducted by neuroscientists.
The human brain has no specific area dedicated to reading (many humans do not read at all), but visual, speech, and auditory centers are hardwired together to take over the task. So this is why we need mental images and rhythm to understand written messages.
What the author wrote in this book has been confirmed by imaging studies with devices for measuring eye movements, and especially through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which recorded the activation of different brain areas while subjects were reading.
Douglas summarizes her efficient method of writing in the rule of the 5 Cs—clarity, continuity, coherence, concision, and cadence—as well as offering practical examples of its application to every type of writing, from novel to advertising text. Most writers know the suggested grammar and syntax rules, though they’re often disregarded.
I found it interesting when she explained why subjects or verbs should have certain locations within the sentence; why the use of action verbs helps us to understand a sentence, while negative or passive phrases can induce confusion.
The author, who has also written about electronic literature, knows that the brain of a reader today is different than it was fifty years ago, and recommends a writing style far different from the classics. The human mind has become televisual, mental schemes are increased, and classification is more refined.
The reader needs immediate images; he does not like having to go back to retrieve a halfway lost subject line, and he prefers writing ordered in timely progression. All this seems logical and obvious to readers, but not to writers.