Language and Linguistics

Surface reading with characteristics/examples/Advantages

Surface Reading

We read to get information about a text. Example: when we leaf through a book, a magazine or a newspaper. In this type of reading, the text is “swept” to know what is being talked about. It is a rather superficial reading that tries to capture a general idea but not the details. This type of reading is recommended when reading a study text for the first time since first it is not recommended to understand the most complex concepts but to get a general idea of ​​them. In this article we will provide you information about surface reading.

Characteristics of surface reading

1-It is informative

A superficial reading allows us to get an idea of ​​the publication we are reviewing, and if it will be able to serve us for the research or the work that we are doing.

2-It’s a quick read

Reading is superficial when we do it “as the bird’s eye”, going through the pages without stopping, that is why it can also be considered a form of speed reading.

3-It is not a linear reading

When you do a superficial reading, you read the main ideas and jump to the next paragraph; it is read “between the lines”, skipping the information that does not interest us, paragraphs, and even entire pages.

4-It can be a rereading or review

Often a superficial reading occurs because it is a rereading, the revision of a material that had already been read.

5-Done as part of a job, and less often for pleasure

The superficial reading is done to acquire practical information (as when we review a tourist guide, or an encyclopedia). Reading for pleasure is usually profound.

A superficial reading of recreational texts (poems, stories, novels) is also possible, especially when it comes to rereading and we want to skip paragraphs or chapters that did not interest us.

6-It is an attribute or characteristic of virtual reading

Different experiments and documented experiences have proven that reading on the screen (digital or virtual) tends to be less deep or intense than readings made in paper books or magazines. Virtual reading is often superficial reading.

Differences between Surface reading and deep reading


Deep reading is slower than superficial reading, it does not skip lines or paragraphs. The superficial one is faster and jumps (it skips words and lines).


The superficial reading goes above, seeking to get a general idea; deep reading stops at the concepts and ideas contained in each sentence. s

3-Form and content

Superficial reading tries to capture the general idea, without dwelling on the style or the formal aspects of the language. In deep reading, what is said and how it is said is important.

4-Exploration and interpretation

The superficial reading is an exploratory reading, it allows us to know new books and contents; while deep reading is interpretive, analytical, seeks to understand and delve into the content.

Advantages of surface reading

1-Ability to review a greater number of publications

Shallow reading is generally a speed reading that allows access to more information in less time.


The superficial reading allows to locate a word, a concept or data more quickly, identifying key words in the search.

3-It favors searching and browsing the internet

Reading the most important headlines and paragraphs allows a more fluid “navigation” on the Internet, while selecting the information that interests us.

4-May promote concentration

Superficial reading does not imply a lack of concentration, on the contrary: when looking for data or materials in different publications, the reader must concentrate to identify ideas and keywords.

5-Helps make connections between concepts

The superficial and fast reading of different texts or publications can help to establish relationships and connections between them, which would not be easily distinguishable with a more delayed reading.

Surface reading examples

1-Review of materials for an essay or school work

When we begin to review pages on the Internet, and to skim through different publications that can be useful for an investigation, we are making superficial readings.

2-Daily news reading

The reading of headlines on mobile and computer screens, today a habit as widespread as before was leafing through the morning newspapers before leaving for work.

The habit of flipping through newspapers and magazines makes us pay attention to the headlines and headlines that are in larger type, making a quick reading, unless we are caught by a particular article.

3-Review of manuals or instructions

Reading user manuals or assembly instructions are usually superficial readings, looking for the most important steps, or some relevant detail. It is a zigzag reading, seeking to understand quickly.

In this way, protocols, contracts and regulations are also read, skipping the preliminary considerations and the articles and rules that are repeated in the documents, to concentrate on the most relevant.

4-Rereading of texts

When conducting research, you often have to go back to the same text two or three times. The first reading serves to get an overview of the material; in the second we go directly to the aspects that interest us; and there may be a third superficial reading when we want to quote or refute information.

For some authors, like Jorge Luis Borges, every first reading is always superficial, and that is why it is important to reread the books, even when it comes to reading poetry, short stories and novels. There are things that we only see or understand with a second reading.

5-Screen reading (phone, internet)

Currently the main newspapers of each country have portals where the main news of the day can be read, and it is normal to see people reviewing headlines and short texts, while walking or going on public transport.

On the other hand, consultations and readings on the Internet are usually moving from one text to another quickly, opening links (links), and reviewing several pages at the same time.

Screen reading has become the most widespread superficial reading in the 21st century, and is often interspersed, supported or interrupted by audiovisual material.

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