Service of Who Reads?

December 20th, 2021

Categories: Read with Care, Reading

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay  

If you can’t boil down your thought to 280 characters–the length of a Tweet–or a photo caption you’ll probably lose much of your audience these days. That’s one reason for the demise of many newspapers and bookstores. We’ve been told in countless ways by innumerable people: few read.

In several previous posts I’ve written about outrageous fees and mistakes in choosing products where crucial facts were tucked in the fine print. To ignore them could be problematic.

Not all missed words are negative. Seventy students–freshman to senior–in a music class at a University in Chattanooga learned their lesson when they glossed over a three-page syllabus Professor Kenyon Wilson, associate head of performing arts, handed out at the start of last semester. They all missed a lovely surprise.

Isabella Grullón Paz reported what happened in The New York Times. The University of Tennessee professor wanted to “brighten up the semester during the pandemic.”  She wrote: “… on the second page of the three-page syllabus he included the location and combination to a locker, inside of which was a $50 cash prize.” His words: “Free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five.”

The professor said “The syllabus is a really dry document. I mean, it’s not supposed to be exciting to read, but I thought if my students are going through and reading it, I might as well reward them.” At the close of the semester–a few weeks ago–he posted the upshot on Facebook.

When I text or email I ask only one question to most friends, colleagues or clients because 99 percent of the time they have the patience or attention span to answer only one.

Do you observe any impact on people who are out of the habit of reading? Have you missed something–good or bad–because you whipped through an agreement or contract or syllabus? Do you still read books, recipes, magazines or newspapers?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay 

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6 Responses to “Service of Who Reads?”

  1. Hussein Ahman-Uttah Said:

    Well, dont keep us in suspenders, – what was the upshot? Or was it contained in the second word of the last sentence in the third paragraph?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The kindly professor got his $50 back. Nobody took the prize from the locker. His clue was pretty straight forward. He posted on Facebook what he’d written on page 2: “Free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five.”

  3. Kathleen Said:

    The key is learning to read by youngsters as early as possible. My dear friend was a reading consultant in her school system. When her grandsons were 4 and 7, she was thrilled to show me a photo that showed the older reading to the younger one, simple text, but reading. Another friend of ours had a wonderful golden retriever who sat with individual students while they read to him, looking attentive. Both cases helped to encourage vital readers as they went through life. Sorry for sermonizing about getting youngsters hooked on reading!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Two of my childhood memories involve my mother who often went to the library with me in tow to return books and take out more. And there was the sight of her sitting on the sofa reading a book. These days I suspect kids see parents reading iPhones and tablets –and not e-books but social media postings.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    I have a selective attention span, so some important messages have been ignored at personal cost. On the other hand, when it comes to business/legal agreements, I tend to pay greater attention, and demand explanations when the language becomes murky.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I am pragmatic and yet I find I don’t always get the [poor] instructions to access and/or successfully fill out online forms to promote client events. They are not well written or make no sense or don’t provide the opportunity to insert key information.

    Along with a tendency to distracted reading, I think the same often applies to basic writing skills by many in the workforce that has fallen by the wayside. Is it the ear buds blaring rock or simultaneous podcast listening that causes sloppiness in website design and directions? Who knows.

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