Do people really read like this?

Apparently, there are people that find a long book anxiety-inducing.

Mark Anthony
2 min readNov 23, 2023
Photo by cottonbro studio:

What has become of the gentle art of reading?

I have just read a guide to online writing in which it was suggested that modern readers are daunted by “too many words” on the page or screen. The writer of this insightful piece, therefore, proposes a layout principle that he calls 1–3–1. One sentence, followed by three sentences, followed by one sentence.

I am using it now.

His belief is that a single sentence is not too challenging and will lure in even the most easily-startled reader. The next three sentences might look like a lot of words but there’s another easy-to-digest single sentence just a few lines away.

My initial thought was to dismiss this merely as the view of yet another online writing guru keen to sell his formula for viral fame to the gullible and unsuspecting. But, apparently, that view is not unique.

Coincidentally, I was listening to a podcast episode from two of my favourite creators, Colin and Samir. I consider them to be smart, intelligent and possibly even well-read. And yet, both of them confessed to finding too many words on a page to be “daunting”. Samir even expressed that he experiences anxiety when he realises there’s another 17 pages to go in a chapter.

Is this the Twitter effect? Has our attention span really shrunk that far? What would these people make of War and Peace? The Stand? House of Leaves? Is this the real reason that movie trailers now contain all the best bits, because the modern viewer lacks the will and the stamina to make it through an entire 90 minutes?

Yet again, I find myself at odds with the modern world. In fact, when it comes to reading, I find myself diametrically opposed to this modern take on reading.

I relish the challenge of the journey through a long book and I will often avoid books that I consider “too short”. I enjoy the company of interesting characters from an interesting book; I feel a sense of loss when we part company. I have even been known to “park” a book for a week or two if I feel I am reading it too quickly.

Maybe the 1–3–1 model is purely for the young.

Perhaps it was never intended for the likes of me and those of my vintage. Maybe this “layout-first-content-second” approach is for those that can identify more than one Kardashian. Maybe it is aimed at those strange people that believe a Kindle is an acceptable substitute for an actual hardback book.

Count me out.

And yes, that final 1–3–1 WAS deliberate!



Mark Anthony

Mark is a journalist, author, podcaster and daily live-streamer specialising in the field of demolition and construction.