Thanks for stopping by! This is a question I dearly hope has an easy answer …
Having entered three Haiku challenges on Vocal recently, which stipulate a set syllable count on the entry requirements, it occurred to me that I—and probably other budding poets—might not all be on the same page when it comes to counting syllables.
I looked online for a definitive ‘how to’ …
What Google Said:
The number of times you hear a vowel (a, e, i , o, u) in a word is equal to the number of syllables a word has. […] The number of syllables in a word is decided by its number of vowel sounds. […] An easy way to identify vowels is that we make them with the letters a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in every instance. So, as well as counting the syllables by sound, I use online syllable counters to check my accuracy. Some words cause problems due to variations in pronunciation, especially between US English and British English, but also simple regional variations in accents.
For example, ‘fire’ seems to cause controversy. I pronounce it as two sounds (syllables) … as in ‘higher’. However, some of my fellow poets pronounce ‘fire’ more like ‘far’, which gives it one syllable.
Perplexed as to which is accurate, I’ve now tried five different online syllable counters. Three counted fire as 2 syllables, and two counted fire as just 1 syllable.
In previous blog challenges in which I’ve participated, the host has often instructed us to use the same syllable counting tool for consistency and fairness.
For accuracy, the free tool Soda Coffee Syllable Counter is my favourite—https://www.traveldailylife.com/syllables
All of this led me to wonder how the Vocal challenge judges—and other poets—decide the syllable count for such troublesome words. Do they sound it out or use a counting tool?
Are there any recommendations for folks such as myself, still learning and honing their craft?
If you’re able to clarify this, I’d be most grateful. And if you’ve had similar issues, please let me know. Either way, I would love to chat with you via the comments below.