Whatever Happened To Punctuation?

Richard DormandyEditor’s Note: This is a guest post from our friend Richard Dormandy. You can follow Richard on Twitter at @strawvic. Many thanks to Richard for sharing this perspective on worship with us!

Over the last few years we have seen an almost total disappearance of punctuation in worship songs where has it all gone you can more or less make sense of the meaning because of the line breaks however when projected the line breaks often come at the wrong times anyway because the lines are too long for the screen and many do not bother to edit the songs.

Punctuation is there for a purpose. It makes everything more intelligible – which is essential in worship.

At the same time as losing punctuation, we seem to have become punctilious about capitalizing You, Your, You’re, when referring to God and putting apostrophes into words like power when they are only taking up one syllable. All of this is completely unnecessary and only clutters the page.

One reason (I think) why people omit punctuation is because they are going center the lyrics on a projection screen – and punctuation then looks ungainly. However, centered lyrics – while easy on the eye in a general sense – are much harder to read as the beginning of each line comes at a different place. Furthermore, when a line is too long, it is ridiculous to then be left with one or two little words left in the middle of the next line down. These are graphic design howlers.

So here are some answers.

1. Left align your projection layout.

2. Check the song on the screen and edit the lines to fit properly. If your software does not allow you to edit, get some that does: e.g. OpenLP, which is free, fully-functioning, and excellent.

3. Put in punctuation, while you are editing – you only need to do it once! Commas at the end of a line; semi-colon half way through a verse (e.g. at the end of line 2 or 3). Full stop or colon at the end of the verse depending on whether it is leading into a chorus…

4. Change all the capital Ys into small ones. God can look after his own capitals. Keep the capitals for God, Jesus etc. Sometimes put them for Him, etc. (but it can feel top-heavy if there are too many of them). Consider using a capital Y for You if there is no other mention of Jesus or God, just in case the worshipper thinks they may be referring to their girlfriend.

5. Take out all those silly apostrophes and spell words like “power” properly. It is a fancy Victorian habit to contract these words unnecessarily. Congregation members automatically know how to contract the words they’re singing, without being distracted by a strange symbol on the screen.

6. And a final plug for Open LP – you can also get two short verses of a song onto one screen with OpenLP – and keep a line break between the verses. All you do is press Shift + Return which gives a hard line break. In the same way, Shift + Space makes a hard space, allowing for indentations for choruses. It is an excellent free program which allows for perfect editing.

One thought on “Whatever Happened To Punctuation?”

  1. Richard, I couldn’t agree more. We were shouting ‘alleluia!’ as we read it. How many times do you paste a song into a presentation and then spend ages removing unnecessary capitals, apostrophes etc, and add punctuation?
    May many more people see the punctuation light!

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