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Can You Raed Tihs Msesgae
Letters Make Words Because the Brain Says So

An email from a dyslexic friend was a play on word recognition research. She enjoyed the information on cognitive processes and learning to read embedded in the humorous message. It read...

"Aoccdrnig to a rseearchr at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl
mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe."

Can you read it? Probably... Here is the translation"

According to a researcher at an English university, it doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without any problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.

Is it true? Absolutely not.

Apparently this message has become one of those email hoaxes that although not true, will live forever. If you haven't received it yet... you will someday.

Matt Davis, who earns his living at Cambridge University studying how our brains process words, has taken the time to assemble the same text in several languages and alphabets. The results are far from comprehensible.

There is a reason that the piece of text is not just gibberish. There are patterns that the brain looks for in order to process anything that our senses perceive.This text has enough of the normal English word patterns to be recognizable.

The rule that the first and last letters need to be in their correct place does make a difference, but not for the reasons that the email gives. Notice that any one, two or three letter word is written correctly. That gives your mind several places where no extra processing is needed. The four letter words are a little difficult, but with only two letter switched, our brains can still cope.

If the piece

Aoccdrnig to a rseearchr at an Elingsh uinervtisy

only included the longer words:

Aoccdrnig rseearchr Elingsh uinervtisy

the string of words gets more difficult to unravel. There is no context to guess at to fill in the blanks that these unfamiliar words create. The familiar patterns are gone.

Mr. Davis goes into more details about the problems with this premise if you're interested. The end result of the explanations is that the email may be amusing, but the concept doesn't hold up.

That won't stop its popularity on the Internet email circuit, but it may help you explain the real story if it comes up in your classroom.


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