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



Eddie Jones ~ Skull Creek Stakeout

Cover of Skull Creek StakeoutLast October I posted a fun interview with the irrepressible Eddie Jones. Eddie is an author, acquisitions editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, humorist, and follower of the Lord’s leading—not in that order of importance, as Eddie would surely agree. He had just released Dead Man’s Hand, the first book in his Caden Chronicles trilogy for boys.

Since then, Dead Man’s Hand has won the 2013 Selah Award for Young Adult Fiction and racked up nominations for the 2013 INSPY Award for Literature for Young People and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.

Now Eddie Jones is in the news again with the second installment of Nick Caden’s adventures, titled Skull Creek Stakeout. He’s a busy guy these days, but he posted an interview on his website that will bring you up to date and explain why vampirism is an appropriate and important theme in a middle-grade boys’ book with a Christian worldview. Yup. Vampires.

Read my October, 2012, interview with Eddie Jones.

Read Eddie Jones’s August 23, 2013, message.

Check out Dead Man’s Hand.

Check out Skull Creek Stakeout.

New Indie Author ~ Frank Di Giovanni

Photo of Frank Di Giovanni, author of RIVINGTON STREET, reading from his play

Frank Di Giovanni, author of RIVINGTON STREET, reading from his play

Frank Di Giovanni, a long-time member of the W. B. Ogden Writers Group in Walton, New York, enthralled an audience at W. B. Ogden Library last night with a dramatic reading from his newly released play, Rivington Street.

The three-act drama follows the conflict between retired businessman Sam Israel and his son, Robert, a pushy lawyer. After the death of his beloved wife, Sam leaves their Florida residence and returns to the old neighborhood in New York City—over Robert’s fierce objections. Sam meets up with Dave, the present owner of Sam’s former clothing store, and can’t help but compare Robert’s attitude to the close, respectful relationship Dave enjoys with his adult son, Max. The fat hits the fire when Robert shows up, armed with papers authorizing him to take Sam “home” by force. Yes, Robert is one of those characters you love to hate. Don’t worry, though. “Salvation,” as Frank calls it, comes by the end of the play.

Missed the event at Ogden Library? Click here to listen to Frank Di Giovanni’s reading of Act Two, Scene One of Rivington Street. (The recording runs about 25 minutes. Please forgive the slight gurgle that was left behind when I filtered out a loud ventilation fan.)

Having heard Frank read his work at writers group meetings, I wasn’t surprised by the authentic characterizations he dressed his dialogue in. As audience members remarked during the question and answer session that followed the reading, both Frank’s writing and his animated reading put us right into the scene. Frank says he’s had no acting experience to account for his theatrical flair. He jokingly suggests it came with his Italian heritage.

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Want to Put Poems to Music? See Guest Blog on Random Writing Rants

Random Writing Rants banner

Ever had the desire to write hymn texts or put your poems to music? Think it’s impossible because you have little or no music training?

Check out my 10 tips for putting poetry to existing music, on my guest blog at Random Writing Rants, which is a terrific source of information, advice, and encouragement for adult and teen writers.

If you haven’t already read my posts here on Faith Songs about my adventures in writing original music, take a look at them, too:
Writing Songs for the Lord
To the Ends of the Earth

By way of an update, I’m happy to say that, thanks to my musically inclined collaborator, Phyllis Neff Lake, the project of adding piano accompaniments to the hymns and faith songs in Songs for the Lord is well underway. Yay, Phyllis! Yay, God!

Meanwhile, I’m adding material slowly but surely to a second songbook. This one will feature original hymn texts set to some of my favorite classic hymn tunes. Just this morning, the Holy Spirit showed up with a new hymn idea in the wee hours. I grabbed a newspaper lying next to my bed and scribbled a draft of the verses before they floated out of my memory. Next step will be to—well, you can read all about the process on my guest blog at RWR. 🙂

Let me know if you’re inspired to give it a try!


P.S. 9/28/2013

I just added new links to my Resources page that will interest poets who want to write new words to set to old hymns.  Hymnary.org offers XML and midi files of public domain hymns. MuseScore, a free music notation program, opens those files and lets you edit them. Replacing the old lyrics with your own words is easy! You can modify the notes, too. Then you can save and print professional-looking sheet music. Have fun!


A New Twist of Fate ~ and Faith

Photo of Twist of Fate book featuring poem The Wind and The Spirit by Linda Bonney Olin

Today’s mail brought my paperback copies of Twist of Fate, a charity anthology produced by Indies in Action. If you have sharp eyes, you can sneak a peek at “The Wind and The Spirit” in the photo. I wrote this faith poem specifically for Twist of Fate, which was edited by Stephen L. Wilson and published by Navigator Books. All contributions were donated by the participants, and all proceeds will benefit the May Tornadoes Relief Fund, managed by the United Way. (Yes, that’s why I used tornado imagery in the theme and visual layout of “The Wind and The Spirit.”)

Indies in Action is a group of independent writers and artists who banded together to tangibly express our compassion for victims of tragedies. Our first anthology project, Angels Cried, benefits the survivors of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Twist of Fate was released early in July, and quickly shot to the Number One spot on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list. Its success is well deserved. The Indies aren’t just caring people, they’re also good writers! I particularly liked W. F. Lantry’s poem “Storm,” Dave Fessenden’s poem “Holy Vine,” and Lori Dillon’s short story “Ruby Slippers.”

Even though Connecticut and Oklahoma are American locales, Indies from around the world pitched in on both anthologies. Dr. Kiriti Sengupta of India, for example, not only donated two pieces of writing to Twist of Fate but also delved further with interviews of several contributors. Check out his interview “Linda Bonney Olin, a God-Centered Writer from the U.S.” and jump from there to other fascinating entries on Kiriti’s blog.

Of course, Indies in Action can’t succeed in our charitable quest without folks who contribute by purchasing copies of the anthologies! To get in on that action, click on the links below. Don’t forget to leave a comment here and a review on Amazon. Thanks!

~ Linda

Twist of Fate paperback
Twist of Fate ebook
Angels Cried paperback
Angels Cried ebook


Faith of Our Mothers ~ Theresa Bonney

Photo of Linda and Theresa Bonney at Pleasure Island ParkThis is the only photo I could find of me and my mother when I was a kid. Like me, Ma usually was the one behind the camera, snapping shots of Dad, my sister, and me on our family jaunts to small theme parks in Maine and New Hampshire. This one was taken at  pirate-themed Pleasure Island. I was ten years old.

Ma didn’t know it at the time, but back then I didn’t believe in God. I went to Mass and confession and attended eight years of parochial school, but I had no real conviction that God was anything more than a mass delusion, wishful thinking.

But Ma had enough conviction for both of us, with plenty to spare. When I went off to college, she gifted me a subscription to Guideposts magazine, which she has faithfully renewed every year since. And prayers! I joke about how many rosaries she’s ground into fine powder, praying for me and my kids.

If you’ve looked around this website or read much of my writing, you know that God finally got my attention. Now I write for him. Ma is my biggest fan, cheering each accomplishment and commiserating with my struggles. You could say that’s her part of my ministry—a very important part. And yes, the beads are still clicking on my behalf!

Thanks, Ma. And Happy Mother’s Day!


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.


The Uphill Road ~ Faith Song for Holy Week

For your Holy Week devotions, today I share The Uphill Road, one of the twenty-four hymns and faith songs in my Songs for the Lord collection. The Uphill Road is a solemn hymn about the challenge and ultimate victory of carrying the cross. The first five verses focus on Jesus Christ’s walk to Calvary, the last five on our human experience. If ten verses seem long and arduous, well, that’s the whole idea. A melody will ease the journey, though. Click the title here to listen while you read (or sing!) the lyrics:  The Uphill Road 

(The chords make this file too large to repeat the verses. If you’d like to hear the melody repeated ten times without interruption, you can play the no-chord file on my Audio page.)

The Uphill Road

1. Lord, you took upon your back the heavy cross of Calvary,
fully understanding where that rugged path was going to lead,
and in meek submission to your holy Father’s sovereign will,
resolutely dragged your cross along the road that wound uphill.

2. Roughly jostled by a mob who pelted stones and loudly jeered,
stumbling over ruts and rocks that at every turn appeared,
underneath the shifting weight of the unwieldy load you held,
Lord, you fixed your eyes upon the final goal that lay ahead.

3. Weakened by the painful trials that had brought you to the cross,
you were worn out from the strain and fainting from the blood you’d lost.
In a fragile human body you had come to earth to dwell,
but that body’s finite store of strength ran out, and down you fell.

4. Hands of pity touched your face to wipe the blood and sweat away.
Other hands reached out to haul you up and shove you on your way.
Minutes must have crawled like hours as you tried to keep the pace
to the spot they called Golgotha, to your execution place.

5. At the summit, you were nailed upon a cross of seeming shame,
but surrendering to death, you glorified your Father’s name.
By your suffering and dying, scripture’s promise was fulfilled.
Now you beckon me to walk that rugged road that winds uphill.

6. Lord, I took upon my back a heavy cross to follow you,
little understanding what that rugged path would lead me to.
In reluctant resignation to our holy Father’s will,
now I slowly drag my cross along the road that winds uphill.

7. I’m discouraged by the jeers of those I thought to be my friends,
and I stumble on desire to follow selfish, worldly ends.
It’s so hard to keep my balance underneath this weighty load.
I must fix my wandering eyes upon the One who chose this road.

8. Weakened by the painful trials that had brought me to the cross,
I am worn out from the strain and trying not to count the cost.
Lord, you know I’m only human, so it’s no surprise at all
when my burden proves too much for my own strength, and down I fall.

9. Hands of pity touch my face to wipe my weary tears away.
Other hands reach out to lift me up and help me on my way.
Still, the minutes crawl like hours, but I can’t speed up my pace,
just one foot before the other, toward some God-appointed place.

10. Lord, the path you’ve mapped for me may lead to loneliness and shame,
but if carrying this cross will serve to glorify your name,
I will bear it, in your footsteps, till your promise is fulfilled
of salvation at the summit of the road that winds uphill.

~ Linda Bonney Olin

For the account of Jesus Christ’s road to crucifixion, read John 19:1–30. (Read it on BibleGateway.com)

I’m in an Internet-challenged part of the world these days, so I may be slow to approve and reply to comments, but I’ll be able to read them on my email. Please leave your thoughts about this song if you enjoyed it. That will help me along my journey, which is a bit rocky at the moment.

Easter blessings to all,



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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