presented by Acoustic Learning

About the Scan Marks

The scansion used on this site features eleven different marks.  The marks are explained in greater length in Scansion Made Simple.  This page gives you a quick rundown of them all.

The following two lines include five of the nine marks:

  ,        ,         ,        ___
Jack be | nimble,| Jack be | quick
  ,        ,   2       ,      ___
Jack jump^|over the | candle|stick.

1.  The single accent mark [,] indicates a long syllable.

2.  A vertical bar [|] represents a division between rhythmic units (each unit is called a foot).

3.  A caret [^] indicates that the final sound of a syllable is either muted or spoken with the following syllable.  In this case, the natural pronunciation is jum pover.

4.  A horizontal bar [] indicates an extended syllable that is longer than long.

5.  Numbers [2] or [3] indicate two or three syllables squeezed into the space of a single short syllable.  When speaking these syllables aloud, they do not need to be spoken more quickly, but there must be no pause between them.

Other marks include:

6.  An asterisk [*] indicates a reduced vowel or r sound.  This mark is not used for every instance of a reduced sound; rather, it is used only where it might seem more natural for a North American reader to pronounce the sound fully, to remind the reader to avoid speaking its full value.

            ,        ,       ,      ,          ,
      Whereon | old Nor|way, ov|ercome | with joy,
        ,                  ,          ,         ,       ,
      Gives him | three* thous|and crowns | in an|nual fee,

              ,           ,        ,            ,          ,
      Four* days | will quick|ly steep | themselves | in night;
               ,            ,        ,        ,         ,
      Four* nights | will quick|ly dream | away | the time;

7.  A short stress, in which two short syllables are used to create one stress.  Short stresses are marked with an [x].

  x              ,
Heaven is | my judge

8.  A double foot, in which short and long syllables are grouped with each other instead of alternated, is marked with a forward slash [/].

     ,     ,         ,                ,      ,
The un|discov|ered count|ry from / whose bourne

     A triple foot is marked with a double forward slash [//].

            ,                   ,     ,     ,          ,
      Were noth|ing but to // waste night, day | and time.

9.  A double foot in which three long syllables are put together is marked with a [T] (for "triple").

    ,             ,          ,         T     T     T
Checked with | frost and | lusty | leaves quite gone

10.  Pauses are indicated with circles to suggest empty space.  A single circle represents a single-syllable pause, and two circles a full-foot pause.

     ,      ,         ,        ,       o
No wom|anhood?| Ah beast|ly creat|ure

  ,            ,        ,         ,    oo
Melted,| as breath | into | the wind.|

11.  Sometimes a verse line ends early, and is not shared.  These lines could be marked with pauses to complete the lines' lengths, but for visual simplicity they are marked with a double backslash [\\].

     ,        ,    oo   oo   oo
It is,| my lord.|    |    |

    ,        ,
It is,| my lord.  \\

12.  A final mark, that isn't part of the scansion, is four question marks [????].  These indicate a line that has not yet been solved, and has therefore not been marked with a valid rhythm.  Suggestions for fixing these problem lines are welcomed.

13.  Additionally, two question marks [??] indicates a line that has been conformed into five feet but, if spoken as marked, may be difficult to pronounce naturally.