Working with Perfect Rhymes

Added on Monday 18 Jul 2011

A “perfect rhyme” is when the syllables of two or more words contain the same vowel and final consonant sounds, but begin with different consonant sounds (such as boat and coat or bullet and pull it).

It doesn’t matter how the word is spelled as long as the sound of the word is the same. For example, fight and ignite are exact rhymes even though they’re spelled differently (night and ignite are not rhymes because the two sounds are identical even though they are spelled differently). Conversely, love and prove are not perfect rhymes because even though they are spelled the same (other than their opening sounds), they’re not pronounced the same. Even the addition of an s at the end of a word technically prevents two words from being considered perfect rhymes. On the other hand night and ignite would not be considered rhymes because though the end of the word is identical, the preceding consonant needs to be different to be considered a rhyme.

Sometimes there are nuances between words that put their status as perfect rhymes in question. In the David Pomeranz and David Zippel hit “Born for You”), they rhyme stars with ours. Though there’s a slightly different vowel sound between the words, they sound virtually identical when sung.

Some writing teams of the past always used exact rhymes in their lyrics, otherwise they wouldn’t write it. Look up the lyrics to “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, and check out the wonderful perfect rhyming schemes.

Even if you are writing with a very successful songwriter in Nashville, don’t let them insist on using perfect rhymes all the time. You might end up writing a few good songs, but you also might just sacrifice some great emotion on the altar of perfection if you do. Sometimes the perfect word for a line does not happen to be a perfect rhyme.

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