So much more subtle than I imagined

I’m reviewing my latest piece through the lens of ‘Behind Bars’ and I’ve been looking at the splitting of words in the (English) lyrics.

I’m not going to post all the details here, but I had no idea the guidance would be so complicated! So many considerations - is a syllable a recognised prefix or suffix? Is it actually used as a prefix or suffix in the current context? Could the syllable be the start of an English word? Is the consonant softened by the subsequent vowels?

Amazing! Luckily, I quite like this kind of detail.

With hyphenation, there is sometimes more than one correct way, but there are definitely incorrect ways.

The important principles are that the syllables should be split in such a way to help the singer understand what the word is.

There are some who think that you should “show the consonants where they sound”, but that way leads to chaos and madness.

I recommend finding a dictionary that shows hyphenation split-points. The Oxford Dictionary for Writers does this.

This website hyphenates words for music pretty well.

Many authorities will hyphenate the word “legend” as “leg - end”, which to me looks confusing, and breaks the soft vowel rule. :rofl:


Thanks Ben!

I recently found this resource to be useful:

And that’s precisely why in the next James Bond film, Split Another Way, agent 007 will take on C.H.A.O.S. and their world-endangering hyphenation laser.

@RichardTownsend , like @benwiggy I have found Juicio Brennan’s site to be quite handy and helpful.


It’s great, but it gets a couple wrong. “Ag-es.”

Nothing is perf-ect.

Hmm. Not keen on “knowl-edge”, though that does seem to be the US preferred split.

There are (as ever) differences between US and UK English hyphenation rules. UK tends to be more etymological.

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That is a very tricky example, Ben.

Gould says not to split ‘ck’, but she doesn’t mention the case where the two letters end one syllable and start another.

I have always seen it split as “ac-know-ledge” (e.g. in settings of the Te Deum).

I don’t think the “ck” rule applies here.


Thanks, everybody, for this. I love this kind of discussion of language nuances.

I work in English and Lithuanian, and the differences regarding hyphenation are profound. In my case, I can hardly hope to even master my native language’s hyphenation rules (since it happens to be US English).

I appreciate seeing the examples such as “ac-knowl-edge-ment” (US hyphenation). I think that hyphenation looks strange, but I think it might be helpful for a singer.

And the fact that some database programmed or informed by humans presents “ages” hyphenated as “ag-es” was funny. When I see “ag” alone, I think if agriculture and pronounce the “ag” that way.

If I were singing a piece with “legend” in it, I’d definitely want it to be “le-gend”, not “leg-end”, which I’d take to be the end of a leg. :slight_smile:


As long as that singer doesn’t stop at “ack!!!”

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Guess we’re just waiting for the acks to fall.

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Acks to grind, eh, @Derrek …?

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