10 Tips for Screen Reading

— Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor on

While I still prefer to do most of my pleasure reading offline, I’ve found myself reading more articles, short stories, and other texts on the internet. (There’s something appealing about being able to carry an entire library in your pocket!) However, I’ve noticed that with this increase in screen-based reading, I’m a little more susceptible to fatigue and have more trouble concentrating.

Fortunately, I’ve adopted some new habits and explored some options that help to make screen-reading as smooth and painless as possible. Some of these are specific to Owl Eyes, and some are just good ideas in general.

1. Adjust Colors as Necessary

Within the Owl Eyes reader, it’s possible to read in three different color settings: white background with black text, sepia background with brown text, and inverted black-and-white (black background with white text).

These three color schemes are designed to enhance eye comfort for different times of day and lighting settings. For instance, if it’s very bright out, the white background with black text will reduce eye strain. The inverted black-and-white mode is best for reading in bed, and the sepia mode is easiest on eyes during all other times of the day.

2. Change Font Type

Owl Eyes has a selection of typefaces to choose from. Depending on the reader, a serif or sans-serif font may be easier to read. For example, those with dyslexia can have trouble reading serif fonts, while others find they are able to read serif fonts for longer periods of time with the least amount of strain or fatigue.

3. Change Line Spacing and Column Width

When reading online, we tend to get overwhelmed by long paragraphs of text, often skipping them altogether. Widening or shrinking the column width within the Owl Eyes reader and increasing line spacing can help the text to seem less cluttered and less overwhelming, thus easier to read.

4. Change Font Size

Even if there is no need for glasses, increasing the font size of a text can reduce squinting and frowning, leading to less headaches and eye strain. Look for different size options in the Owl Eyes reader tools.

5. Adjust the Lighting

Screen brightness should reflect how well lit a room is or isn’t—the general rule is that the brighter the room, the brighter the screen.

Additionally, the amount of blue light coming from a screen may be harmful to eyes or lead to eye strain—try installing a program like f.lux, which is designed to reduce the amount of blue light that eyes need to filter, helping reduce eye strain and make reading easier.

6. Sit up Straight

Tension headaches are sometimes hard to diagnose, especially if eye strain causes pain. Sitting up straight not only improves focus by allowing the body to take in more oxygen, it also minimizes tension in the shoulders and neck, helping reduce headaches.

7. Take breaks

There are a couple “rules” out there in terms of how long to wait until taking a break from looking at screens. The 20-20-20 rule suggests focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes of screen time, while others have suggested resting for 10 minutes for every 30 minutes. Regardless of the specifics, it’s important to rest the eyes after a considerable amount of screen time.

8. Drink Water

Excessive screen reading can dry out the eyes, leading to further eye pain and fatigue. Making sure to drink enough water (and remember that coffee, tea, and sugary drinks are all diuretics that don’t hydrate enough on their own) can help to keep the eyes from drying out.

9. Zoom In

Even if a specific website doesn’t have adjustable settings to change the font size, it’s easy to zoom in or out through browser tools to help make reading easier. Try Ctrl and + or - on a PC, or Cmd and + or - on a Mac.

10. Eliminate Distractions

Sometimes it seems easier to read a physical book because the experience tends to be a lot more solitary, whereas reading on a screen is prone to distractions like emails, IMs, and more. When reading on a screen, try muting incoming notifications and fighting the urge to check social media to really soak in the experience of reading a book, even if it isn’t a tangible one.

Have you come across any other helpful hints or habits while reading on a computer, tablet, or phone? Share them in the comments below!