Learn how to speed read with Syllable

Syllable 1

Subvocalization is the act of “sounding out” words as you read them. Nearly everyone does it. It happens on a subconscious level. It is how we were taught to read and makes it possible to visualize the sound of words in order to interpret and comprehend them.

Syllable is an app that trains you to stop subvocalizing so you can read faster. It starts you off at a slow, comfortable pace, and works you up to 1,500 words per minute. You’ll be able to read an entire book during your lunch break with the help of this app…


With the most minimalist of designs, this app features two things: a white background and black text. There is a bright green border around your reading window, but there is very little else.

When you add an article to read in Syllable, it will be listed with the amount of time it will take to read based on how many words per minute (WPM) you’ve selected. For example, if you choose to read a particular article at 150 words per minute, it will show you that the article will take you four minutes and 36 seconds to read. If you speed up your WPM time to 250, it will shorten the time it takes to get through the same article to two minutes and 45 seconds.

You can add articles from your Instapaper or Pocket account by setting each app to allow access from Syllable. When you save an article in either app, it will automatically be populated into Syllable. You can also add articles by copying and pasting a URL link or write or paste your own text into a readable post.

In the settings section, you can change the font style, increase or decrease the size of the letters, switch from day to night mode, adjust the WPM speed, add more words to the screen from one to five, and change the brightness level of the screen.

App Use

To get started, log into your Pocket or Instapaper account. You don’t have to have these apps to use Syllable, but it makes it much easier to add articles. Once logged in, go back to your Pocket or Instapaper app and start grabbing articles to read. Then, open Syllable to see the generated list that will have all of your offline reading articles.

Pick a post by tapping it. When you do, you will be taken to a page that has a white background and the first word of the article. You can either start reading right away by tapping the word, or make the necessary changes to fine-tune your reading experience. I found that default starting WPM speed of 50 is much too slow and found that 225 WPM was a comfortable speed to begin my training.

You can also increase or decrease the size of the font. It is helpful to have large letters when trying to read fast, but not particularly realistic since the average font size of an article is 12.

After adjusting the speed and size of the words, try reading your first article. You will notice that you are not able to sound out the words in your head the way you normally do. This is because your brain is being forced to keep pace with the words that appear on the screen.

You can switch the screen to night mode in the settings section for a black background with white font. This works better when you are in a dimly lit environment because the bright white background can be harsh on the eyes.

While you are reading an article, you can tap the word to pause it, rewind a few seconds, and fast-forward a few seconds. When you’ve finished a whole article, you can tap it again to restart it.

When you are done reading an article, go back to the list to mark it as read. Swipe the post from left to right to bring up a check mark. Or, if you want to remove it from the list, swipe the post from right to left to bring up an “X” mark. This will delete the article from your list.

To add a new post without going through Instapaper or Pocket, copy the link to the article you want to read and then open Syllable. It will automatically ask you if you want to add the copied link to the list. Select “yes” to add it.

You can also write your own post to read in Syllable. Tap the plus (+) symbol at the top right of the screen to call up the options. Then, tap the “Text” tab and begin writing. You can either type your own words, or add an email that was sent to you, or some other text that you’ve copied. Just paste it into the Text post and tap the “Done” tab in the upper right corner of the screen and you can find it in the list and read it whenever you like. You’ll even be able to tell how long it will take to read at your current WPM pace.

The Good

If you are trying to learn how to speed-read, this is a great app for helping you retrain your brain to not sound out words. I love being able to add articles from my Pocket account. Plus, being able to copy and paste emails into the Text feature makes reading messages from others a more focused event. I am less distracted while reading and more engaged in what is in front of me.

The Bad

It would be nice to be able to add more reading apps to the list of compatible connections. I’d like to be able to add articles from the New York Times app or Flipboard to my reading list.

There were a few times when I was unable to restart an article that I had finished reading. I had to exit back to the article list and then select the post again in order to read it.


Syllable is on sale for $0.99, which is the perfect price for an app like this. Other speed-reading apps can be downloaded for free, but require an in-app purchase in order to access all of the features. Some of them cost $4.99 to unlock. I don’t know the full price of the app, but I can say it is definitely worth $0.99. However, anything higher makes it a niche app that would only be worth buying if you are really into the idea of learning to speed-read.


I’ve always wanted to learn how to read faster. I’m actually kind of slow at it. This app is great for slowly teaching you how to increase your WPM speed while helping you retrain your brain to stop subvocalizing when you read. It’s like Couch to 5K for your brain. If you are interested in learning how to speed read, download this app while it is on sale for $0.99.

Related Apps

ReadQuick is one app that also offers access to Instapaper and Pocket and lets you set the speed of words. Another similar app is Speed Reader, which has a more skeuomorphic look to it.

How fast do you read? Have you ever tried speed reading?