Critical issues in letter and word priming were investigated using the novel incremental priming technique. This technique adds a parametric manipulation of prime duration (or prime intensity) to the traditional design of a fast masked priming study. By doing so, additional information on the time course and nature of priming effects can be obtained. In Experiment 1, cross-case letter priming (a-A) was investigated in both alphabetic decision (letter/nonletter classification) and letter naming. In Experiment 2, cross-case word priming was investigated in lexical decision and naming. Whereas letter priming in alphabetic decision was most strongly determined by visual overlap between prime and target, word priming in lexical decision was facilitated by both orthographic and phonological information. Orthographic activation was stronger and occurred earlier than phonological activation. In letter and word naming, in contrast, priming effects were most strongly determined by phonological/articulatory information. Differences and similarities between letter and word recognition are discussed in the light of the incremental priming data.