Split-ting Words Without Getting a Split-ting Headache

Sheet musicEver notice all the hyphens in your hymnal? I pity the guy who had the job of putting them there!

When song lyrics contain words of more than one syllable, the divisions between syllables are marked with hyphens in the score. This allows each syllable to be individually aligned with its musical note.

Some syllables are sung across a series of notes. The score will generally use a curved line called a slur to mark the range of notes assigned to a particular syllable. It may display multiple hyphens for an extended syllable.

The clip of sheet music pictured above shows the hyphenated syllables Glo-ri-a, ex-cel-sis, and De-o in the classic Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Look at all the hyphens following Glo! That single three-letter syllable is spread over sixteen separate notes. Keep an oxygen tank handy when the congregation belts that one out!

Where Do the Hyphens Go?

But Gloria-induced hyperventilation is not the source of the headache I mentioned in my post title. My split-ting headache comes from trying to figure out exactly where to divide words when I type lyrics into a music notation program.

I vaguely remember a few of Sister Mary Adele’s rules from fifth grade grammar:

  • End a long-vowel syllable with the vowel.
  • End a short-vowel syllable with a consonant.
  • Split words between two consecutive consonants, unless they form a diphthong. (Wait a minute, diphthongs combine vowels. What do you call a consonant combination? A gerund? No … I’m getting too old to keep that stuff straight.)

But Sister Mary Adele’s rules don’t always give the right answer. Even words I thought were obvious turned out to be split differently in my hymnal. Where would you place the hyphens in the common word everyone, for example? I didn’t even guess the number of syllables correctly.

What’s a lyricist to do? Use only words of one syllable? Not likely. Insert hyphens wherever they look right to me, and hope no one else knows better? Tempting, but not the most quality-conscious approach.

How to Divide and Conquer Multi-Syllable Words

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is my hard-copy reference for word spelling, definition, and syllabication. A quicker solution: I keep a browser window open to Dictionary.com while I work on lyrics. When I need to check a word, I type or copy/paste it into the search box and hit Enter. Voila! Dictionary.com displays the word and its derivative forms in hyphenated syllables.

Even if you don’t write music, knowing where to find a word’s correct syllabication might come in handy someday. If you lay out the interior pages of a print-on-demand book in Microsoft Word, for example, you might want to override Word’s hyphenation to tweak a line here or there. Splitting a long word differently (Con-gregation instead of Congre-gation, for example) can improve the appearance of a printed page or break a line of dialogue at a more reader-friendly place in a script.

By the way, give yourself a pat on the back if you split everyone into three syllables like this: eve-ry-one. Sorry, Sister Mary Adele!  🙂

Edit January 10, 2016:
Entering hymn lyrics into a digital score by copying and pasting from Microsoft Word is a lot quicker than typing the words directly into the score. To do that, I first have to separate the syllables with a space or a hyphen (depending on the music notation program). Inserting all those spaces/hyphens individually gets pretty time-consuming.

But I recently was tipped off to Lyric Hyphenator, a free online utility from Juicio Brennan. Just paste your text into the on-screen box and click a button to have it hyphenated automatically. If your notation program uses spaces instead of hyphens to separate syllables, you can then use Word’s Find/Replace All function to replace all the hyphens with spaces.

Caveats: Lyric Hyphenator works with standard English words only. You should eyeball the results for accuracy; as always, use a dictionary to check the syllabication of any questionable words or proper names.


Are You Peeking Through the Publishing Window?

Poster of a Sparrow Perched on a Window , asking Why peek in the window when the door is wide open?High-flying indie authors make news practically daily. Industry gurus exhort writers, practically hourly, to invest major effort and money into launching our own books into the stratosphere of publishing success, whether by independent or traditional methods. We must conduct our writing activity in a serious manner. Be professional. Businesslike. Goal and results oriented.

Shrewd advice. But …

On Saturday, September 14, I’m setting aside my aspirations to soar with the eagles. Instead, I’m heading to W. B. Ogden Free Library in Walton, New York, to flock with a few of my favorite sparrows.

The Ogden Writers Group grew out of a memoir-writing workshop led by Columbia University professor Leslie Sharpe, so it’s not surprising that quite a few members are older individuals who write memoirs and fictional stories about bygone days, primarily for the benefit of family, friends, and others interested in the times and places they describe.

Do these writers expect to land fat royalty publishing contracts, or want the obligations a contract would entail? Not really. Do they have the means or desire to set themselves up as self-publishing moguls, managing teams of editors, designers, and marketers to turn their books into indie sensations? I doubt it. Do they have big bucks to shovel into the coffers of vanity publishers? Not that I know of.

No, they’re what many in the industry refer to (with disdainful sniffs) as “amateurs” and “hobby writers.” The sparrows of the writing world, I call them. True, some write more polished prose than others. But they all have stories to tell. Poignant stories. Funny stories. Historically, socially, and spiritually significant stories. Should those manuscripts lie in a drawer forever because they weren’t written by people who fit the “professional” mold?

My presentation to the group will encourage those sparrows who are perched on the windowsill—not on the outside looking in, but trapped on the inside looking out wistfully at the eagles, and woodpeckers, and hummingbirds with their published books. I’m going to suggest that they (you?) can get out there and fly, too. The publishing door has been opened wide by self-publishing services like Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon’s ebook publishing division) and CreateSpace (Amazon’s print-on-demand division). Maybe my sparrow friends’ books will never reach the highest heights. But a sparrow-sized flight is still a flight to be proud of.

Are you a sparrow on the windowsill? Stay tuned. I plan to record my talk and post it for those who can’t attend the meeting. (Update: Recording and script are now posted on my Resources page!)

Meanwhile, here are several sparrow flights I’ve helped launch. Please click on the covers and give them a look. <3

Cover of My Cup of Tea by Phyllis Neff Lake

A Novel of Conversation, Friendship, and Love
by Phyllis Neff Lake


Kindle cover of Rivington Street by Frank Di Giovanni

A Drama in Three Acts
by Frank Di Giovanni


Cover of Songs for the Lord by Linda Bonney Olin

by Linda Bonney Olin


Photo of paperback book cover of The Sacrifice Support Group:Lenten Drama and Discussion by Linda Bonney Olin

Lenten Drama & Discussion
by Linda Bonney Olin



The Sacrifice Support Group Goes Paperback

Photo of paperback book cover of The Sacrifice Support Group:Lenten Drama and Discussion by Linda Bonney Olin

12/2/2013: Please note that some publication information in this article is obsolete. See the post dated December 1, 2013, for current titles, contents, and links. – Linda

Home at last! After a six-week sojourn in a house without high-speed Internet service, I finally can post the latest news.

Today The Sacrifice Support Group: Lenten Drama and Discussion made its début in an 8”x10” paperback edition. This large format makes reproducing pages easy and economical. A church or small group can buy a single book and give photocopies of the dramatic comedy script to the cast and photocopies of the handouts to the discussion participants. A bargain, right?

A month after Easter may seem like an odd time to launch a Lent-themed book, but I wanted to experience print-on-demand (POD) publishing firsthand before teaching a couple of related workshops at Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July. I had published the Kindle edition of The Sacrifice Support Group in February, so that material was a handy choice for my first POD venture.

I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, so I designed the book cover and interior pages myself and uploaded the files to CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD division. The only up-front expenses were ten dollars for an ISBN (a book’s unique identifying number) registered in my own name as publisher and about seven dollars to have a proof copy of the finished book mailed to me.

Of course, the do-it-yourself method costs time, if not money. I had to adapt the ebook cover to the print edition’s dimensions and add a back cover displaying the requisite back cover stuff. CreateSpace furnished a Microsoft Word template for the interior layout, which needed a lot of customization for this project. Luckily, I found online resources that explained display and text fonts, page numbers, running heads, and other print book elements that I hadn’t had to contend with when formatting ebooks. The most helpful site was Joel Friedlander’s www.TheBookDesigner.com, a mother lode of book design instruction and all sorts of advice for indie authors.

This afternoon I clicked the final button. Voilà! The Sacrifice Support Group instantly went on sale in the CreateSpace online store. Individual books will be printed when they are purchased—in other words, printed on demand. Within a few days Amazon.com and other online book retailers should list it, too.

In spite of the time spent and the steep learning curve, I had fun building a POD paperback. I hope that the finished product reflects my desire to place helpful content into a polished, functional, affordable book.


Designing a New E-Book Cover

Book cover - Songs for the Lord by Linda Bonney OlinSongs for the Lord marked its first anniversary as an e-book last month. A whole year! Hard to believe, right? I celebrated by giving the book this new cover image.

Let’s face it. People do judge a book by its cover. The cost of hiring a professional book designer is money well spent. But what about ministry-minded (or just plain broke) writers like me who self-publish on a small budget (a zero budget, in my case)? We, too, want our book covers to look attractive and communicate information about the book’s style and contents. After all, a cover that fails to grab the attention of its target audience or makes a negative impression on them doesn’t help put the book into their hands.

Aside from my investment in a digital point-and-shoot camera (several years ago) and modest photo-editing software, this cover fit perfectly into the budget I mentioned. Want to know how I did it?

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Love, Truth, Purpose, Freedom: Pat Bertram

Photo of Pat Bertram, photo supplied by Pat Bertram

Author and blogger Pat Bertram

I first encountered Pat Bertram in her role as administrator of the popular Suspense/Thriller Writers group on Facebook. Pat is, not surprisingly, an author herself, but her work ranges far beyond the suspense/thriller realm.

Detecting in Pat a kindred spirit I would like to know better, I asked her a few nosey questions …

Pat, why do you write what you write? For example, why did you choose to write A Spark of Heavenly Fire?

A Spark of Heavenly Fire came about because of a Washington Irving quote: “There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity; but which kindles up, and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” When I read those words, I could see her, a drab woman, defeated by life, dragging herself through her days in the normal world, but in an abnormal world of strife and danger, she would come alive and inspire others. And so Kate Cummings, the hero of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire was born. But born into what world?

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Pick Up a Pen and Celebrate “I Love to Write Day”

Poster announcing  November 15, I Love to Write Day

Ten years ago, Delaware author John Riddle had the bright idea to hold the world’s largest party for writers. That idea quickly evolved into an annual day dedicated to encouraging everyone to write. Thousands of schools and libraries—even the governors of nine states—have joined the celebration.

John says: “My goal for I Love To Write Day is simple: people of all ages are encouraged to write something. A poem, a letter, an essay, start a novel, finish a novel…the possibilities are endless!”

Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

I would add my own soon-to-be famous saying: “The sword has no power at all unless you pull it out and use it. Same goes for your pen!”

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Eddie Jones ~ Author & Publisher


Photo of Eddie Jones
Author/Publisher Eddie Jones

Today’s Faith Song is a duet with guest Eddie Jones. Eddie claims he can’t carry a tune, so we’ll settle for hand-clapping and foot-stomping in the “joyful noise” pew. 🙂

I met Eddie at the 2011 Montrose Christian Writers Conference. Couldn’t help but love the humor-filled, down-to-earth way he lives out his passion for the Lord and for the written word.

Eddie is the author of eleven books and over 100 articles. He also serves as Acquisition Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is a three-time winner of the Delaware Christian Writers’ Conference, and his YA novel, The Curse of Captain LaFoote, won the 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and 2011 Selah Award in Young Adult Fiction. He is also a writing instructor and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. His “He Said, She Said” devotional column appears on ChristianDevotions.US (not “dot com”). His humorous romantic suspense, Bahama Breeze, remains a “blessed seller.” When he’s not writing or teaching at writers’ conferences, Eddie can be found surfing in Costa Rica or some other tropical locale.

Now, try to imagine Eddie answering the following questions with a grin and a charming slightly-southern accent:

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To the Ends of the Earth

Photo of a mailbox on a country road
How does the Lord deliver his words of comfort and challenge to the people who need to hear them?

Oh, he has his ways!

In my last post, I described how I wrote a collection of hymns and faith songs and filed them away while the Lord assigned me other kinds of writing.

But that wasn’t the end of the music story …

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