How to Count Syllables in a Poem

What are Syllables

Syllables are the smallest unit of pronunciation. They contain at least one vowel sound. A word is always made of one or more syllables. For example, the word ‘water’ has two syllables; wa & ter. When a word has more than one syllable, one syllable is pronounced more strongly than the other. The strongly pronounced syllable is called the stressed syllable or accented syllable and the other is called unstressed or unaccented syllable.

How to Count Syllables in a Poem

The best method to identify the syllables is to identify the vowels in a line since syllables contain at least one vowel. There are several ways to count syllables in a poem. We’ll look at some of these methods in this article.

Method 1:

The Clap Method

  • Read the first line aloud
  • Clap when you hear vowels as a separate sound
  • The number of claps is equal to the number of syllables in the line.
  • Continue with several lines. (Poems often have the same number of syllables in each line)

How to Count Syllables in a Poem

Method 2:

The Writing Method

  • Count the number of vowels in the line.
  • Add 1 to the number every time the letter y makes a vowel sound
  • Subtract 1 for each silent letter  
  • Subtract 1 for each diphthong (2 vowel letters make one sound) or triphthong (3 vowel letters make one sound) in the line. Ex: oo, au, iou
  • Add 1 if the letter before the letters “le” is a consonant.
  • The number you now get is the count of syllables.

Method 3:

The Chin Method

  • Place your hand below your chin.
  • Read the line aloud.
  • Count how many times your chin touches the hand.
  • This is the number of syllables in your line.

Example to Show How to Count Syllables in a Poem

Now Close the Windows

Now close the windows and hush all the fields:
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.

It will be long ere the marshes resume,
I will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.

– Robert Frost

Syllable Count

Now| close | the |win|dows| and |hush| all| the|fields: – 10

If| the| trees| must,| let| them| si|len|tly |toss; – 10

No| bird| is| sin|ging| now,| and| if |there| is, – 10

Be |it |my| loss. – 4


It| will |be |long| ere |the |mar|shes |re|sume, – 10

I |will| be| long| ere |the |ear|li|est |bird: – 10

So| close| the| win|dows |and |not |hear| the |wind, – 10

But| see| all |wind-|stirred. – 5

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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