Dealing with Unfamiliar Words

If you are like many readers, you may believe that you must read and comprehend each word in a sentence.  You fear that you will not grasp the meaning of the sentence if you do not do so. However, this is false. What is true is that you must comprehend key words in a sentence in order to grasp its meaning and extract important information. Understanding these key words – and skipping less important ones – will not hinder your understanding. In fact, using key words and inference will increase your reading speed. For example, consider the following sentence:

Macular degeneration is a chronic, progressive disease and the leading cause of legal blindness in adults older than age 50.

In the sentence above, there may be words you do not know: macular, chronic, progressive, legal, adults. However, there are enough key words to aid you in understanding the meaning of the sentence and to help you guess to which part of the body the word macular may be related.

- - - degeneration is - - - disease - - - leading cause - - - blindness - - - older than age 50.

The sentence is about a disease that is the primary cause of blindness in people older than 50. Because the sentence focuses on a disease that causes blindness, you can infer that macular refers to the eye or a part of the eye.

The same technique is useful when reading longer or more complex passages such as the one below. Unfamiliar words have been omitted. Even with these words omitted, you should be able to answer the questions that follow the passage.

- - - degeneration is - - - disease - - - leading cause - - - blindness - - - older than age 50. Researchers do not know what causes these changes - - - Aging and heredity are the main   - - - other - - - factors may include long-term exposure to light – especially ultraviolet light and blue light (the - - - just above ultraviolet) – low blood levels of minerals and antioxidant vitamins such as A, C and E, cigarette smoking, and certain circulatory problems. The greatest - - - factor for - - - degeneration is age. In fact, the disease is most common in - - - over age 50. It affects about 11 percent of - - - ages 65-74 and 28 percent of - - - age 75 and older. Having a family history of - - - degeneration also makes it more likely an individual will develop the disease. In addition, exposure to sunlight and environmental - - - – especially cigarette smoke – greatly increases an individual’s - - - In fact, smokers are two to three times more likely to develop - - - degeneration. Some researchers theorize that eating partially - - - fats, such as those found in - - - also may increase a person’s - - - of - - - degeneration. Women are more likely than men to develop - - - degeneration, and people with lighter colored eyes may be at greater - - - than those with darker colored eyes. - - - degeneration is much less common among black Americans, Asians, and American Indians than other groups.

1.       The exact cause of macular degeneration is ___.

a.       due to aging

b.       due to heredity

c.       due to long exposure to ultraviolet light

d.       unknown

2.       Which risk factor would probably contribute the least in damaging the macula?

a.       working indoors all day

b.       eating butter

c.       smoking

d.       wearing sunglasses

3.       There is an approximate 61 percent increase in the risk of developing macular degeneration once Caucasians become ___.

a.       50 and older

b.       65 to 74

c.       75 and older

d.       none of the above

4.       Which risk factor is greatest in developing macular degeneration?

a.       lack of exercise

b.       smoking

c.       heredity

d.       poor nutrition

5.       Women are less at risk in developing macular degeneration than men are.

a.       True

b.       False