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Electronic Messages and Readability

            Electronic messages are increasingly becoming the norm. The idea of assessing readability of electronic messages stemmed from the experiences of researchers who found the all-capitals format, paragraph agnostic US Navy message traffic emails difficult to read. The researchers focused on assessing readability of messages without taking physiological functions into account. Prior research has shown that external factors such as illumination, contrast, print size, font, legibility, format and text styles influence reading speed, comprehension, eye movement and reading strategy. Researchers have also found that humans are used to the familiarity of documents in mixed case, reading exclusively uppercase messages 13% slower. Uppercase reading has also been seen to confuse readers due to similarity amongst letters. Further, being larger, uppercase letters have been observed to impact reading speed. Text readability has also been acknowledged to affect reading speed and comprehension. However, research has been divided on the aspect of text readability due to the necessity of depending upon subjective responses from participants. Researchers have also observed that readers modify reading times based on their ultimate goals to be achieved from the reading; if they are aware that they would have to answer questions later, readers tend to read slower.
             Based on prior research, the researchers hypothesized that participants in a proposed study would have slower reading times and would generate more incorrect answers when reading all-upper-case text as compared to emails in mixed case. They also hypothesized that participants who knew they would be questioned later would read messages more deliberately. They further hypothesized that participants would fare better in reading speed and retention after reading text that was emphasized with capitals or spaces. The final hypothesis of the researchers was that text written in exclusively upper case would be the least preferred style (Greer, Sowden, and Scharff).

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