Can you read wrong words

The trick with the letter salad

For a number of years now, a text has haunted the Internet that suggests that spelling is practically superfluous, since the human eye would not pay much attention to spelling errors anyway - misspelled things would still be legible. This text spreads via e-mail, in forums or weblogs in different variations, most recently in a larger wave at the end of 2006 (often with comma errors, corrected here):

According to eneir Sutide eneir elgnihcesn Uvinisterät it is nchit witihcg, in wlecehr Rneflogheie the Bstachuebn in eneim Wrot snid, the only thing that is active is that the estre and the last Bstabchue at the ritihceidgn Pstoi. The Rset can be a ttoaelr Bsinöldn sien, tedztorm can be lseen without pemoblre. That’s the way we don’t read every Bstachuebn enzelin, snderon the word as gseatems.

At first glance, it is fascinating how easy this actually illegible text can be read quite well. So do you actually really no longer have to worry about spelling? Are German teachers, lecturers and other know-it-alls just petty? No. Because this scrambled text is just a trick. The content is not completely wrong (there really was an English doctoral thesis in 1979 with the title "The Significance of Letter Position in Word Recognition" which took up this aspect and to which it refers), but the text also hides some things.

Because this example above only works because the words are known and, above all, common words that each of us reads relatively often. In fact, the experienced reader no longer reads letter by letter one after the other like an elementary school student, but recognizes the word and its meaning immediately when he sees it. That is why mixed up words can also be recognized, because one remembers the words with their corresponding letters. Basically you don't read, but put together words you have already learned in a meaningful way - you “guess” the right word. If you will, it is a form of pareidolia or apophenia - the tendency of the human mind to recognize familiar things (here: known words) in randomly arranged things, although they are not actually there: one expects one known word and thus recognizes it in a similar order. However, that would not be enough to understand the above text; because if such encrypted words are torn from their overall context, do not appear in a sentence, but stand individually, it is z. B. much more difficult to guess their meaning:

It only becomes legible when typical sentence structures, punctuation marks and grammar are added. In addition, the original example does not contain compound words for good reason, because the fragmentation trick no longer works particularly well with the German language, since in German you can add words to each other almost at will - i.e. terms can arise that you may have never seen before therefore cannot recognize:

Melhmrhdchncecnunigssumäum **

The longer the word, the more difficult it is to decipher, even if long words appear in familiar sentence structures. If a word is unfamiliar to you, it is difficult to decipher it. The test can be done very easily: code a technical text with many lesser-known words in this way. Here it becomes almost impossible to recognize the meaning:

Skuxypendroprhälae oedr Sundräkee Pvenotiärn bhiezet on Feunnkehnürrg from Keithrenktan (Seiennrcg) and Bhanduleng in a mösilghct fherün Saudtim. The Korrgsorvebe or the Neorceinbenenseugreng are very popular. ***

You may still get the middle section out, but you probably understand the entire text as a medical professional or only if you already know in advance that it is about the early treatment of e.g. B. Cancer goes.

Not everyone can read such letter-twisted texts equally well: it depends on the skill of the reader, his reading comprehension, the word length, the sentence structure and, above all, whether one already knows the individual words. d. That is, if you could read the example at the very top with no great difficulty, it does not mean that everyone else can do the same. It just means that you have good reading / writing skills yourself. The whole thing has little to do with spelling - the twisted words are actually actually spelled correctly. As soon as you no longer just put the original example together incorrectly, but actually write it incorrectly, maybe even take one letter too many or leave one out, it immediately becomes much more difficult to decipher the content:

Gmäes enia Shutidce ebneir älgnihcesn Uveinihnstert eats it nchit whcitich, (...) ****

A curious conclusion to this phenomenon could therefore be: Twisted, simple words of well-known terms can be read easily - if they are otherwise spelled correctly.

The example shown at the beginning is therefore no proof that spelling is superfluous, but only proof of the ability of the human brain to easily memorize what is often repeated. A piece of wisdom that everyone knows who has already learned vocabulary. Therefore, typing errors are not a sign of a lack of spelling skills: the more proficient a writer is in reading, the more often he or she will overlook his own typing errors.


* Nevertheless

** Milkmaid invoice total

*** Secondary prophylaxis or secondary prevention refers to the early detection of diseases (screening) and treatment at the earliest possible stage. Examples of this are cancer screening or newborn screening. (Excerpt from Wikipedia)

**** According to a study from an English university, it is not important (...)
05/12/2007 / 09/08/2011; last change on July 16, 2014