Don’t be intimidated by standard rhythm symbols. There are really only 5 main symbols you need to remember at the beginning. The whole-note, half-note, quarter-note, eighth-note and sixteenth-note are the most common rhythmic divisions. Learn to recognize these quickly and you’re set for most songs.
Now we discuss a few pitfalls to avoid when encountering a typical chord/lyric sheet. Make sure not to change the rhythm of either the lyrics or the independent guitar part. Also, it is important to feel free to add your own flavor to the song and not interpret the music as flatly as it’s laid out on the page.
We use a lyric/chord sheet for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to learn what to do when you’re looking at a standard chord sheet.