When writing hymn texts, the author is literally "putting words in people's mouths," said Paul L. Anderson in his class on creating texts for music.
Brother Anderson, author of the text to four hymns in the LDS hymnbook, said a good hymn text reflects an unusual bit of understanding or spiritual insight, but at the same time expresses feelings that are commonly shared among those who will be singing the hymn. It strikes a balance, he said, between originality and "locking into shared ideas and feelings."For those who would venture to write a hymn text, he suggested the following questions:
- Do you have a clear idea of what you want to say?
- Is the idea developed in a clear and logical way throughout the text?
- Are there poetic images or memorable phrases that help to unify or dramatize the text?
- Do the rhythm and rhyme scheme help create an appropriate mood for the message?
- Is the rhythmic pattern consistent enough from verse to verse to fit a musical setting?
- Does the text read smoothly and naturally without straining to fit into the rhythm or reaching for a rhyme? For example, inverting the subject and the verb too often can make a text sound contrived.