One of the most frequently questions I get before someone starts a speed reading course with us is, "How do I stop subvocalization?" Beginning learners also ask. The goal of this article is to put that old habit into its proper place when learning to read better and faster and give some powerful tips to overcome it.

When someone asks or complains that they are in a speed reading program and they are still subvocalizing, somewhere they have learned that this habit that was formed in the early stages of reading development (usually before 3rd grade level), I know that they have learned that they can not read much faster than 400-600 words per minute with this approach. Subvocalization is the habit that is a four step process - you see the words, then you say the words in your mind, then you hear the words in your mind, then you understand the words. The human mind can understand the spoken word up to about 600 words per minute. So, it does hold you back from reading in the thousands of words per minute range which is possible with good training.

Reading can be defined as the mind's response to printed text. The text is composed of visual symbols (letters and words). Therefore, reading is a visual thinking process. The mind can instantly respond to visual symbols. If you drive, you do it evey day. Very few people read as a visual thinking process though.

When first learning speed reading, you need to learn to move the eyes more fluidly and efficiently. The eyes are the mechanical part of reading. All speed reading programs focus on this. When dealing with subvocalization, most programs merely tell the learner to stop doing it, but don't explain how. In fact, most speed reading programs treat comprehension as a mere mention, but don't teach the speed reader how to understand the material.

If you are learning to speed read, you do not want your mind to go silent on the material. You want to replace subvocalization. In fact, even advanced speed readers will never totally eliminate the subvocal process. They transform it.

Subvocalization needs to gradually be replaced by you giving your mind a purpose for reading. What do you need from the material? What will you do with what you learn from the material? What can the author tell me? How can... (topic) be done? Asking a lot of questions of the material before diving into the depth of it is one way to transform how your mind responds to the print.

Another tip is to ask yourself, "What's this about?" as you move through the text. As your mind seeks and sees the answer, you will "hear" something. What you are hearing is your mind. Some of the words might be in the text. That's ok. The key is that you are not seeing, saying, hearing, and then understanding every word as the author has written it. Your mind is now responding, interpreting, and/or summarizing. You don't want to silence the mind!

Remember, if your mind is filled with the thought, "Stop Subvocalizing!" over and over while you are trying to speed read, you won't understand the text. You will have competing thoughts.

So worry less about subvocalizing. Worry more about "What am I thinking about!"

Don't go on a rampage to stamp out subvocalization. Transform it into your interaction with the author and your interpretation of the visual symbols! That's how to read fast and comprehend!

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and, Inc. You can learn more at and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."