It always irks me to see proper school-taught punctuation in song lyrics – it never matches the song phrasing or breath pattern. At best, it doesn’t reveal if there are pauses for effect.
I like to put commas in lyrics where the pauses should go, especially if I think I might forget later.
If you arrange the lyrics so each line is a musical phrase or half-phrase, you don’t need periods, question marks, etc. because it will be obvious where the end of the phrase is: it’s at the end of a line.
One example, as found on the interwebs:
Cold Fort Worth beer just ain't no good for jealous. I try it night after night. You're in someone else's arms in Dallas. Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind?
How it ended up in my lyrics book:
Cold, Fort Worth Beer, Just Ain’t No Good, For Jealous
I Tried, It Night, After Night
You’re In Someone, Else’s Arms, In Dallas
Does Fort, Worth Ever, Cross Your Mind
I just learned that this style of punctuation actually has a name, and is quite old: Elecutionary punctuation…and I thought I was breaking the rules in a new way. Doh!
Guy’s rules for lyric sheets:
- Use elecutionary punctuation. Puncuation should enhance the phrasing, not clash with it.
- Don’t split lines in a way that detracts from the phrasing
- Use a large font that is easy to see in dimly lit venues with poor lighting.
This goes for lead/chord sheets, too
- Capitalize every word. Another enhancement that eases reading in poor lighting.