We investigated the extent to which accuracy in word identification in foveal and parafoveal vision is determined by variations in the visibility of the component letters of words. To do so we measured word identification accuracy in displays of three three-letter words, one on fixation and the others to the left and right of the central word. We also measured accuracy in identifying the component letters of these words when presented at the same location in a context of three three-letter nonword sequences. In the word identification block, accuracy was highest for central targets and significantly greater for words to the right compared with words to the left. In the letter identification block, we found an extended W-shaped function across all nine letters, with greatest accuracy for the three central letters and for the first and last letter in the complete sequence. Further analyses revealed significant correlations between average letter identification per nonword position and word identification at the corresponding position. We conclude that letters are processed in parallel across a sequence of three three-letter words, hence enabling parallel word identification when letter identification accuracy is high enough.