Intent on the Meaning of a Song

We seem to be seeing more and more syntactically fragmented worship songs for public worship, which isn’t helped – if understanding’s the goal – by the lack of punctuation at the ends of lines in a society that generally does rely on punctuation in reading. True, we have fewer Ciceronian sentences now in English, but in return we have other things that are harder to parse than Milton, much less take in with coherent understanding, without the aid of punctuation.

Putting disorderly thoughts into people’s heads, which are easily manipulated by the devil, doesn’t edify. With the rise of more confusing or easily confused syntax (more easily confused without spoken intonation, anyway), therefore, reducing punctuation is exactly the wrong move.

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2 responses to “Intent on the Meaning of a Song

  1. in response to your comment, WOW!!! it’s always good to know that i’m not alone when it comes to my feelings.

    in response to your post. what are some things we as a church or as people can do to offset this tendency of worship songs to skew meaning via lack of punctuation and altogether bad syntax?

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  2. »it’s always good to know that i’m not alone when it comes to my feelings.«

    Blessed indeed. Yesh Elohim, they say.

    »what are some things we as a church or as people can do to offset this tendency of worship songs to skew meaning via lack of punctuation and altogether bad syntax?«

    My guideline would be to punctuate a song mentally, if not on paper. If it takes over 5 seconds to figure out one punctuation point, there’s probably something that makes the song hard to parse at that point. For writers, this is important for getting it to the stage where people can get the overall meaning built up from basic blocks; for others hearing and singing the song, it’s useful to give an idea of whether they actually understand the song’s sentences before going on to the fullness of its message.

    And we need to at least pay attention to whether we’re writing sentences in corporate worship songs. I don’t mind seeing somewhat harder-to-parse poetry, but that doesn’t belong in the corporate worship context.

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