Use Of When Where Who How Why In Grammar Songwriters – Should You Use Good Grammar When Writing Your Lyrics?

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Songwriters – Should You Use Good Grammar When Writing Your Lyrics?

Using good grammar

Unless you have a good reason to deviate from certain grammar rules, you probably shouldn’t. There are few songs that I can think of that are grammatically so bad that they are hard to listen to.

One of the songs is “More Than Words” by Xtreme. The song begins with the line “I don’t want to hear the words ‘I love you’ from you.” If you had written that sentence in a high school paper, your English teacher would still be slapping you today… and rightly so. From a grammatical standpoint, something like “I don’t want to hear ‘I love you’ from you” would make more sense, especially since it’s the opening line of the song and sets a standard for what’s to come.

What follows doesn’t go much better. Another line in that verse says “More than words you have to do to make it true.” I don’t even know how to fix it. But you can see how it makes for great listening.

I don’t mean to hit on Extreme, because I love the song “more than words”. However, good grammar would have been a nice touch here, because there is no reason for bad grammar other than simply not knowing better.

Using bad grammar

Reading what I just wrote you might think that it’s never okay to stray from the rules of grammar when writing a song, but that’s not the case at all.

As a singer you are a character in your own story. Different characters speak in different ways. For example, in Amy Winehouse’s song “Rehab” she sings the line “I ain’t got no time and my daddy thinks I’m fine.” Of course, using the word “no” isn’t considered grammatically correct, but it’s fine in the context of this song. It fits Amy Winehouse’s “character” in this song. She’s gritty and rough around the edges so of course she uses the word “no” when she doesn’t want to do something. It makes sense.

A similar thing happens in the title line of Winehouse’s song “Me and Mr. Jones.” Of course, from a grammatical point of view, the line is incorrect. However, putting “I” first is a common mistake that Winehouse’s character might make. Plus, had she used the correct grammar, the song would have been called “Mr. Jones and Me,” and Counting Crows had already had a big hit with that line.

That’s not to say that Winehouse doesn’t have her share of grammatical problems with other lines in her songs, the same way we saw in the extreme example. However, the situations we’ve talked about here don’t bother me, because that’s how her character would speak.

The same idea applies to lines like “I can’t get satisfaction.” Sure, that line is a grammatical nightmare, but that’s okay because it fits Mick Jagger’s cheeky character. We expect his character to say so. In the same way, I don’t expect Eminem to use proper grammar in his songs.

For that reason, you’re trying to rewrite any lines that shouldn’t go through all of your songs where you use words like “.will do,” or “desired“Because people say those things in North American English. That’s fine. Most of the time the lyrics are conversational, like they’re “fake” words. In many cases it sounds weird to hear “I’m going” because it’s a morph. The phrase “done” has become so commonplace that singing is an exaggerated form of speech, so ideally you’d want to sing your ideas the same way you’d say them.

Also, “your,” “you are,” “there,” “they are,” “their,” etc. It would also be wise to know the difference between, but you won’t hear it just because you listen to songs. Until someone sees your written words, come to yourself when writing lyrics. That’s when it’s helpful to know when to use each one, so you look like you know what you’re talking about.

A final note

As you can see, it’s okay to occasionally use bad grammar when you’re writing songs (but don’t tell your English teacher I told you so!). If you find yourself bending certain rules of grammar to make one of your rhymes work, you’re using the wrong grammar for the wrong reason. If you’re doing it because that’s how your character would talk to someone, that’s probably fine.

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