5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Song Lyrics

Mollie Porein

It is very difficult to write the perfect song. Who’s to say what “perfect” means anyway? What exactly are the most common features of our popular songs? If you are looking to write the greatest hits of all time, it’s a good thing you’ve stumbled upon this article. Some of the best music and history has incorporated the use of lyrics with clever rhyming, syllable patterns which progress like a story, catchy hooks, and personal subject matter. It may seem like it’s impossible to write the next big hit, but there are certainly some tricks you can use to increase the chance of your success. Here we look at the five biggest mistakes to avoid, so you’ll know what not to do.

1. Rhyme All the Time

It is true that roaming is one of the most common ways that you can write lyrics in popular music, but too much of it can lead to a naïve and childish sound to your art. Some of the best lyrics written in history have actually used rhyming in a subtle way. When you’re sitting around writing lyrics at home or in a studio, pay attention to rhyme. The key is to use rhyme in a way that it doesn’t detract from the core meaning of your music. Rhyming should be used in a strategic way to draw more attention to certain words rather than rhyme just for the sake of it. Think of classics like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” – this is a classic because of its clever rhyming scheme, talent and catchy melody. It’s a song that resonates with so many people and for a good reason. Imagine if every syllable at the end of each line rhymed – it would ruin the song completely!

2. Subject Matter

If you think about art, most good art will tell you something about the human condition. Your music should resonate and tell a story, just like in a poem, chief essay or novel. People can relate stories and feel the emotion within them. While your song progresses, you need to give people ideas that unfold as they listen on. If you’re struggling to write songs with a clear subject matter, try thinking about the following questions:


  • What story do you want to tell people?

  • How do you want the audience to feel once they’ve heard my song?


You really need to think about a decent subject matter to create a solid story.  Nobody wants to hear about your recent trip to Spain and then for you to jump to an unrelated subject in the same verse. Think about one core idea and stick with it, allowing your song to resonate with listeners and flow through easily.

3. Writing Insincere Lyrics

Unfortunately, there are a lot of songs out there that just feel like they’ve been created by robots in order to generate some sort of cash flow for the music industry. If you know that you are a true songwriter, your music will be much more than generating cash. Of course, it is good practice to research recent trends in the music industry and incorporate them into your songs, but writing insincere lyrics is a definite setup for failure. Nobody likes to warm to someone who is being two-faced or untruthful, so your listeners will find it difficult to warm to your song if your lyrics are disingenuous. Your lyrics need to reflect your true personality.


If you’re not romantic or if you’re not political and so on, do not try and emulate these characteristics. Insincere words will very quickly sound dull, and your audience will switch off immediately. Regardless of the idea and theme, your lyrics need to connect to you if you want them to stand out across your audience. If you’re not doing this, there will be no conviction in your words, and this will make your music feel very stale.  


4. Syllable Mismatching

It is very important to use syllables in the correct way when writing any lyrics or poetry. There are rules of thumb to follow with syllable combination and stress pattern which will set the tone of your piece and bring a flow to your music. Of course good art breaks rules, but in general, it is important not to miss match your syllables.

5. No Definite Hook

All popular songs require hooks. Think about that opening baseline on Michael Jackson’s “beat it” – what does this do? It sucks you in immediately and wants you to listen further. Songs need to have cracking hooks to work and not only this, but they have to be placed in a strategic spot within the piece. Just like the way that colorful advertisements catch the viewer’s eye at the beginning, your hook should lie towards the beginning of your song. You will want that catchy melody to grab hold of you from the get go and pull you in so that you keep listening.


Having established your hook, you will need to look at your melody and review. Make sure that the contents of what you’re saying also acts the same way as a hook. As an example, if you’re looking at writing a love track and you use some cliché statements involving things such as “my heart” and how it can be so terrible to live “apart”, then you’ll hardly impress anybody. Make sure that your lyrics are cutting-edge and interesting for people. If this means putting in a lot of time, then it’s best not to rush developing your hook. It is the hook that really draws in listeners more than anything else in a piece of music so don’t forget about it.

Get Writing

We hope that these mistakes show you what not to do. Writing a hit takes some time and patience; however, you’ve now got some great knowledge that will help you on your way. Good luck with all your music writing in the future.


Are you a songwriter? Perhaps you’ve definitely come up with some challenges and mistakes of your own that you’d like to share with us. Feel free to post your comments below.

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