Does Good Writing Mean Good Reading? An Eye-Tracking Investigation of the Effect of Writing Advice on Reading

Laura Winther Balling

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Many writing guides list constructions that writers should avoid, including passives, nominalisations and long complex words and sentences. This study presents an eye-tracking experiment that compared the reading of such supposedly problematic constructions with the reading of their recommended parallel versions in four different Danish LSP texts. While a range of control predictors, including the length of the target constructions and their position in the texts, had significant effects on reading time, there was no effect of whether a target construction followed or opposed the advice given in writing guides. This suggests that, in themselves, the supposed problem constructions are not inherently problematic to understand. Therefore, factors previously put forward as important, such as the information structure of texts and the image the sender wishes to project, should be what influences the choice of constructions rather than simplified rules such as “Avoid passives!”. The implications of this finding for writing guides and for company and institutional language policies are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalFachsprache: International Journal of Specialized Communication
    Issue number1-2
    Pages (from-to)2-23
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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