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Lots of music contains repetitions, incomplete sentences, and slang. I want to know if there's a "correct" way to add punctuation and breaks when transcribing the lyrics.

Take for example an excerpt of "Make It Up As We Go" by Jason Derulo:

so so sweet like candy
you're so sweet like candy
what we got
what we got
let's make it up as we go

I've left out all punctuation and capitalization as not to lead any answers, but put line breaks for readability. Those too may be incorrect. Any guidance is appreciated.

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closed as not constructive by Bill Franke, Mitch, Kristina Lopez, Carlo_R., Hellion Apr 10 '13 at 20:15

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That last line is the perfect answer to your question: "let's make it up as we go". There's no "correct" punctuation for song lyrics. –  user21497 Apr 10 '13 at 17:31
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1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I've edited many small-run amateur songbooks, so I've dealt with issue like this. There are two major approaches: punctuating it as normal English and leaving nearly all punctuation out. I've never liked the second approach, but it's widely accepted. By that approach, the sample you've given would be acceptable if you capitalized the first letter of each line. Punctuation is still necessary within a line if it would be confusing otherwise.

Punctuating song lyrics as normal English does have to allow for sentence fragments, and it shouldn't be so heavy that it gets in the way of readability, so some punctuation marks that are required for strict usage can be omitted. If I were entering that excerpt in a book I was editing, I'd put a comma after the "What we got" lines, and a period after the others.

The line breaks are a matter of following the scansion, and you need to hear how the song is sung before making a decision. That gets into song editing and beyond the scope of this site.

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Another approach is to add a comma etc where there is a natural pause in the melody, as lyricists often (but not always) fit the words to the meter of the melody. –  Gnubie Apr 10 '13 at 18:43
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