How to Read Backwards

Three Methods:Reading from Right to LeftUsing VisualizationReading Mirror Image Text

We all know the importance of exercising our bodies, but what about exercising our minds? Reading words backwards helps to keep your mind active and improve your reading skills. As English readers and writers, we are accustomed to reading left to right. To challenge your brain, try reading from right to left, instead.

Method 1
Reading from Right to Left

  1. Image titled Read Backwards Step 1
    Write down a short phrase on a piece of paper. It typically helps to start with shorter, easier words and work your way up to a longer phrase. Two to three words will be sufficient.
  2. Image titled Read Backwards Step 2
    Rewrite the phrase backwards. Begin with the last letter of the last word and end with the first letter of the first word. Leave spaces between words just as you normally would. Practice writing the phrase several times; it will help clue your brain to the right-to-left movement.
    • Because you are accustomed to reading left-to-right, your brain naturally prefers this direction; essentially what you are doing is re-teaching it how to track from right to left (called "directional tracking").[1]
  3. Image titled Read Backwards Step 3
    Practice reading the phrase. Start with the letter on the right and work towards the left (the opposite of how you normally read). Identify each letter individually and try to sound it out as you go. Over time, your brain will begin to recognize the shape of the word, and you will no longer need to sound it out.[2]
    • Practice reading several times over the next few days. Spacing out your practice over time helps you feel more comfortable reading and recognizing words from the opposite direction, from right to left rather than left to right.
  4. Image titled Read Backwards Step 4
    Move on to longer phrases. Pick a random sentence from a book and practice reading it backwards. If it is difficult to isolate the sentence in the book, rewrite the sentence on a piece of paper, then rewrite the phrase from right to left. It might help, at least initially, to use your finger under each word to help your eyes keep track of where you are.
    • Practice makes perfect! Here's an example. Try to figure out what it says.
    • snoitalutargnoC .sdrawkcab gnidaer era uoy siht daer nac uoy fI

Method 2
Using Visualization

  1. Image titled Read Backwards Step 5
    Visualize a word in your mind. It can be any word, though it is easier to start with shorter (two to four letter) words. Mentally write the word in your mind as you would on a piece of paper, drawing each letter.
  2. Image titled Read Backwards Step 6
    Flip the word from right to left mentally. Beginning first with two-letter words (oh, ah, no, on, etc.) practice flipping the letters in your mind. As you move to longer words, it might help to mentally write each letter one at a time, beginning with the last letter, rather than trying to flip the entire word. As you gain confidence it will become easier to flip an entire word.
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    Practice. Because this is a mental exercise, you can picture any word backward. Next time you are stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting for a friend at a restaurant, pick a word you see and practice flipping it in your mind.
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    String words together. For an extra challenge, practice flipping whole phrases in your mind. It is often challenging enough to visualize a backward word in your mind, so be patient with yourself. Flip single words in your mind before flipping an entire phrase.

Method 3
Reading Mirror Image Text

  1. Image titled Read Backwards Step 9
    Hold the backwards text up to a mirror. If you're trying to decipher text that has been written backward in mirror image, there's an easy way to make it legible. The mirror image of the text, or the image of the text that you'll see in the mirror, will look as though it was written normally.
    • Mirror image writing is different from right to left backwards writing. In mirror image writing, each individual letter appears backwards, but the letters are still in left to right order.
    • You can see the effect if you hold up regular text to a mirror.
  2. Image titled Read Backwards Step 10
    Read the text from left to right. Just as you normally would, you should be able to clearly read the text now. No brain boggling is required to decipher the code. The letters will appear in their normal position.
  3. Image titled Read Backwards Step 11
    Use a mirror to write backwards. The next time you want to make your writing slightly more difficult to understand, you can use a mirror to translate your text into mirror image writing. Here's what to do:
    • Write your text on a piece of paper in normal writing.
    • Have a friend hold it in front of a mirror.
    • Use a piece of tracing paper to trace over the mirror image of your text.
    • The text on the tracing paper will be your message, in mirror image backwards writing.


  • When you know lots of words backwards, test your friends and family!
  • Try writing something backwards and leave it for a target to get confused.
  • Some words, called palindromes, read the same backwards and forwards. An example is the word "noon". What other palindromes can you think of?
  • Also practice reading in a mirror and reading upside-down. Both activities are good practice at reversing the order of letters. Reading a word through a piece of paper by holding it up to the light is the same as holding it up to a mirror [3]

Article Info

Categories: Improving Reading Skills