Author Topic: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?  (Read 3044 times)

Offline Leanda

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Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« on: March 13, 2016, 06:43:50 PM »
I'm just about to start a commission containing song lyrics. Given the chosen style (pointed pen uncial) and the size restrictions (A4), I'm really going to have to split some of the lines to fit it in. What's everyone's take on this? Is it OK or do you have to strictly follow the way it was originally laid out? Should I tell my client that I intend to do this?

Offline AndyT

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2016, 06:54:44 PM »
My personal opinion is that you are not typesetting it, and therefore don't have to stick to typographical conventions.  Layout is a major part of the design side of the job.  Definitely discuss it with the client though.

There are exceptions - probably not that many, but George Herbert is an obvious one.

Offline Moya

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2016, 04:55:48 AM »
I was always taught that you should follow the intent of the poet where you can - line breaks in poetry (and I guess also songs) are usually chosen very deliberately - but sometimes you just can't, and you have to do what makes sense in a layout, and you shouldn't feel bad about doing that.  :)

(One that I ran into this weekend was the verse:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.


That last line is a killer; I ended up splitting it in three to have it trail off.)

But like Andy says, check with the client - maybe do a scribbly draft layout and just check that they're happy with it.

Offline Leanda

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2016, 05:29:15 AM »
I was always taught that you should follow the intent of the poet where you can - line breaks in poetry (and I guess also songs) are usually chosen very deliberately - but sometimes you just can't, and you have to do what makes sense in a layout, and you shouldn't feel bad about doing that.  :)

(One that I ran into this weekend was the verse:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.


That last line is a killer; I ended up splitting it in three to have it trail off.)

But like Andy says, check with the client - maybe do a scribbly draft layout and just check that they're happy with it.
My personal opinion is that you are not typesetting it, and therefore don't have to stick to typographical conventions.  Layout is a major part of the design side of the job.  Definitely discuss it with the client though.

Thank you Andy and Moya! Glad to know it just has to be done sometimes, but of course I will check with the client!! :)

Offline AndyT

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2016, 06:04:02 AM »
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

With apologies, I am reminded of a limerick:

There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When they said it was so
He replied "Yes, I know,
But I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can".

Offline Leanda

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2016, 06:13:22 AM »


There was a young man from Japan
Whose limericks never would scan.
When they said it was so
He replied "Yes, I know,
But I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can".


haha, I like that!

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2016, 07:38:17 AM »
I can tell you from experience that you need to ask the client at the very beginning if they have a preference regarding varying from the original line breaks. It saves time to know where they stand. Some will say, "You MUST do it exactly as written" because somewhere they have been taught that you MUST keep the line breaks and there is no changing their mind. Others will shrug and say, "Oh, you just do what looks best." I hardly ever had people in the middle. The responses were usually one of these two.

Many people expect the calligrapher to be the expert on all kinds of things - they will gladly dump all the decisions on you. Others have very specific notions - and sometimes you have to decide what to do if their notion seems contrary to anything you would do. If you think it will look awful, you should have ways of asserting yourself because it is very awkward to let someone talk you into doing something that you don't like and then having them walk out the door with something that you wish you had never done. You have to be very diplomatic about turning down ideas that do not fit with your views.

With regard to rough layouts, it is nice to have a set of fonts that approximate the different styles of lettering that you offer. Often times people will contact you by phone and you can ask them to send you the poem in an email. In just a few minutes, you can compose some roughs using different fonts and different layouts - and send them back in an email.....much faster than doing anything by hand. I can't think of anyone I know (of the old-timers) who does not use computers and calligraphic fonts to do rough layouts. Yes, the kerning or spacing will be a little different, but the fonts are close enough for step one. Often times, step one is the client choosing the font. If you offer several styles, it can be hard for them to know which one to choose. It is helpful to click through and see the same general layout in different fonts.

NOTE: you have to save your computer layouts as a PDF. The client will not have the fonts - so if you just send the doc - it will look bizarre.

Everything I said about having the client approve a proof (in the *crisis* thread about who is responsible for proofing) - insert that here. When they send the words - and you send the layouts, be sure you go through the steps to put the responsibility for proofing on them.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2016, 10:53:24 AM by jeanwilson »

Offline Leanda

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Re: Protocol for splitting lines of poems/songs?
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2016, 10:16:55 AM »
Thank you Jean! I always appreciate your input and advice and very grateful for the amount of information you give. That's all very helpful! :)