Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets!)

While this post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books, much of the following could be adapted by authors and publishers of books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.


Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.


A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”

In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.

Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.



My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over-worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.


Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query letter, synopsis or copy text for promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for a better reading experience. But so does spacing and breaking them up as I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.


My lesson, following those conversations with ‘Jay’, is, 

“We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better.

How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul

Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

11 thoughts on “Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets!)

  1. Pingback: Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets) | Campbells World

  2. I’ve heard of Irlen syndrome and always find it hilarious that conditions are named by the people who have the means to be named after it.

    I started wearing dark glasses in 1976, the color for it created to mute bright yellows (which gave me migraines and made me physically ill). and have never stopped wearing dark glasses. I prefer a black background and greyish letters, or a grey background with black letters when reading documents. Black letters on white is excruciating, and so is the squiggly Times New Roman font.
    My preference is Tahoma or Arial.. What helps the most when trying to spell is the red line under words to alert that there’s a problem.

    Here’s the thing — years after I discovered the need to wear dark glasses all the time, some fool came up with “Scotopic” sensitivity syndrome and the tint for the glasses sold to relieve “scotopic” syndrome very closely matched my glasses. Later, Irlen Syndrome came to life.

    Frankly, Dyslexia is what I was diagnosed with and it is what most people have some understanding of, but by definition, I have both. It’s not worth separating the two and having to provide long explanations.


    1. I am always open to learning about peoples conditions to see if/how I can make communicating easier.
      I am colourblind with blue/purple and dark reds/greens. Many shades of which I cannot tell apart or together.
      Although this is of minimal inconvenience and does not impact on my life, as a child it did, and many times. One instance, I was praised for a certain picture in art class because of the detail, but it was rejected for display because I made the sea purple, not blue. After the work and effort I put into it I was left heartbroken and now, 50 odd years later I still recall the incident.
      Sometimes, all we have to do is listen to understand, a then make a small change in the way we do things.
      Doing so can have a major impact on someone’s life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree completely. Understanding is the key — but it’s hard for people to do without experiencing it on some level.

        Wow! I the school system can be so unnecessarily rigid. I once colored the sky black and my mom was called in for a conference. I lived in a place where it rained quite often — no one thought to ask.

        What if we lived in a world where most people see colors as you do, or needed less light to see? What is normal here might be given the name “White Syndrome.” It’s just another kind of way to live that only needs a bit of understanding.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I realize now I’ve had lots of practice in this writing scripts for African speakers whose first language is not English. It beats me why the elite press wants long, complicated language in their papers and books. I suspect it’s only to convince everyone they are well read and better educated. If I ever have to re-read a sentence then I know the writing is not for me.


  4. Lindsey Russell

    The thing is it’s not a case that you’re dyslexic or not dyslexic – there are many shades in between.

    I’ve never had a problem reading printed matter to myself (with a couple of exceptions I’ll come to) but cannot read out loud without first having read the piece to myself, And although my spelling has improved it is still pretty rubbish and I have problems with the finer points of grammar.

    Now to the exceptions I mentioned, I clicked on the link for the ‘reality’ page – this is to some extent how I ‘see’ forms but with the added frustration that when I’ve finally grasped the question the text seems to ‘slide’ off the page.

    And finally there is the font. The font most used on the internet (Calibre?) is the most difficult for this dyslexic to read (I can’t speak for others). For me the best fonts (for me) to read are the lovely fat ones with serifs that help distinguish one letter from another (Garamond, Baskerville Old Face etc.) because it is easier for the eye to follow along the line rather than shooting up and down as with squashed featureless and narrow Calibre, Arial and their like.


    1. That’s an interesting insight. I have heard people say the fonts, such as Times Roman is a nightmare while the straight ‘neater’ letters are better (for them.)

      I suppose it is impossible to re-create what/how people actually see, but if that example helps some to understand that has to be a good thing.

      I have also heard it said about the words ‘slipping from the page’.

      I will continue to do my best and hope you will read more of my blogs.

      Thank you for commenting. It is appreciated.


      1. Lindsey Russell

        TNR isn’t brilliant but better than Arial and Calibre – it takes me ages to read stuff on the internet in these fonts. Unfortunately TNR is the preferred font for submissions to publishers. I ‘write’ in Garamond or Baskerville then once polished change the font to TNR. I’ve learnt more out of school (and when I was at school dyslexia was barely recognized) than in it including the confidence to ignore teachers’ comments that I was lazy with my written work because my oral work was good.

        Liked by 1 person

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