For Better For Verse:

Link to U.Va. English Department

The Rules

1. Locate any polysyllabic words and mark their stresses, which you’ll find given in a good dictionary if you can’t readily tell on your own.

2. Mark the stressed monosyllables. These will be most (but not always all!) of the following: nouns, main verbs, adjectives and adverbs, interjections, interrogative pronouns; and rhymes.

3. Mark the rest of the syllables slack. These will be unstressed syllables within polysyllabic words and most (but not always all!) of the following monosyllables: articles, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, conjunctions, relative pronouns.

4. Perform the score you just wrote, by playing it back to yourself. That is, read your scansion out loud and check it by ear against your provisional reading, negotiating between the two as needed, and adjusting your scansion marks to reflect any changes of mind. This two-way double-check can be hard work at first, and is likely to entail some frustrating practice.  That’s because at this point you’re in a zone just past the rules, where odd things can and will happen. But cheer up! The listening that this stage involves is the very skill 4B4V is designed to help you hone. It’s what you came here to practice. So don’t stress out, stress in.