Sentence diagramming.
July 3, 2002 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Sentence diagramming. Did anyone else learn this when they were a kid? Brings back memories -- a place for every word, and every word in its place. Fascinating for grammar nuts. The guy diagrams famous sentences -- even the opening sentence of the Declaration of Independence. (Happy Fourth!)
posted by Tin Man (27 comments total)
Of course, that would be "when he or she was a kid." Blast.
posted by Tin Man at 7:19 AM on July 3, 2002

*Looks at diagrams, runs gibbering back to the trees.*
posted by iceberg273 at 7:30 AM on July 3, 2002

Yeah, I *loved* diagramming sentences in English class way back when. (Almost as satisfying as reducing algebraic equations!) This stuff still comes in handy when copy-editing or proofing a piece of writing -- when something reads a bit awkwardly, or just not quite right, it's almost always due to ungrammatical construction that can be broken down by identifying subject/object/verb/modifier, etc.
posted by nstop at 7:52 AM on July 3, 2002

Hated diagraming sentences, I did. The point, I never saw. No need for this skill does a Jedi have.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:56 AM on July 3, 2002

as a child, i loved diagramming sentences.

on a completely unrelated note, i had no friends.
posted by tolkhan at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2002

I didn't have to do diagramming in any of my classes, but I always thought they were kind of neat. I felt sort of left out.
posted by Su at 8:39 AM on July 3, 2002

I love sentence diagramming. Heck, we even did something similar in Japanese, just to get a hold on modifying clauses.

I even bought a book on it a month or so ago.
posted by meep at 8:41 AM on July 3, 2002

I went to a very old-line, Southern, all-male school, and we lived, ate and breathed diagramming. Every year for six years we had at least six weeks of intensive diagram study. It sucked at first, but after a while - a breeze. And it has helped my understanding of English immensely. Since then I have slowly learned of the many differences between my high-school experience and most everyone else's (going to school with girls, for example), and they're lack of a rigorous diagramming background, and their subsequent, relatively shallow understanding of sentence mechanics (thanks, apparently, to whole-language dogmatics of 1980s/90s public-school education), has been a real shocker to me.
posted by risenc at 8:42 AM on July 3, 2002

I'd never thought about it quite this way, but the fact that we had diagramming in 7th grade might have had something to do with the fact that I now get paid to write all day. Yes sir, I think I approve of diagramming.
posted by kindall at 8:53 AM on July 3, 2002

I even bought a book on it a month or so ago.

I have to say, I got a good laugh from the "customers who bought this book also bought" list for that book.

(singing) One of these things is not like the others... (/singing)
posted by Tin Man at 8:59 AM on July 3, 2002

ive been learning the basics of sentence diagramming all morning. i was never in preAP english, and schools today all but directly advocate mediocrity.

have there ever been any poets, or burroughsesque poets, that expirimented with structured sentences specifically?
posted by Satapher at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2002

Tin Man: That IS funny...

Customers who bought this book also bought:

I guess I'm not surprised at the crossover between prescriptivist approach and natavist xenophobia, but it is interesting to see it laid out like that.
posted by malphigian at 9:15 AM on July 3, 2002

I feel sorry for people that didn't learn sentence diagramming... they need to teach that more in schools, and they need to teach phonics. My kindergarden teacher taught phonics and every kid she ever had learned how to read by the time they were five.
posted by banished at 9:23 AM on July 3, 2002

Perhaps we could implement a Metafilter sentence diagramming online course as an adjunct to the "I spell for you" button. This might help restructure the klanging stream-of-consciousness posts of certain individuals into a format interpretable by the pro-grammararians among us.
posted by rushmc at 9:28 AM on July 3, 2002

I learned sentence diagramming in junior high and I haven't done it since then. We certainly didn't diagram anything as complex as some of the sentences on that page.

As an Indiana alum, I got a kick out of these two diagrammed sentences.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:34 AM on July 3, 2002

Man, I loved diagramming sentences back in sixth grade. I remember that's when I first learned about clauses and complex sentences. A whole new grammatical world opened up for me.


No, really. Loved it.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:49 AM on July 3, 2002

restructure the klanging stream-of-consciousness posts of certain individuals

i'm going to veto that idea. i like the daily Mefi-crypto quizes, and i feel all Patty Duke-ish when i have that breakthrough epiphany: "Wah wah." Yes, it does have a name!
posted by tolkhan at 9:52 AM on July 3, 2002

oh, the diagrams are pretty. they make my heart go pitter-patter. i loved doing diagrams in school.
posted by centrs at 11:14 AM on July 3, 2002

Actually, for me, the worst way of teaching English wasn't diagramming, which I liked (and which can be descriptive as well as prescriptive. It just only works well when the author sticks fairly close to the king's English). The worst thing was this really prescriptivist book called Writing Good Sentences which had exercises prescribing you, for example "write a compound-complex sentence with a prepositional phrase modifying the subject, two adverbs modifying the verb, ...." and so on. I ask you, who writes this way? No one.
posted by wheat at 11:41 AM on July 3, 2002

I remember having to diagram sentences in several English classes when I was younger, but they were always the classes taught by the older English teachers. Seemed like the newer (mostly younger) teachers didn't teach it. I always figured it was being phased out of the English curriculum. Made me kind of sad. I always thought it was fun to do.
posted by aine42 at 11:42 AM on July 3, 2002

Not to be a big dork, but there are some minor differences between the way I learned diagramming and this guy's explanation. One that jumps out at me is the difference between the prepositional and infinitive lines - he has them as the same, whereas I learned that with prepositions, the horizontal should terminate into the diagonal, and the opposite for the infinitive.
posted by risenc at 12:09 PM on July 3, 2002

Now, now, Rushmc. We enjoy Thomcatspike's stream-of-consciousness posts.
posted by Holden at 12:44 PM on July 3, 2002

so iceberg, you're a linguist too?
posted by cheesebot at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2002

so iceberg, you're a linguist too?

A psycholinguist, actually, but I can draw trees on restaurant napkins to illustrate a point, should the need ever arrive (and it does).
posted by iceberg273 at 3:33 PM on July 3, 2002

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

A really good example of a run-on sentence. I love parsing and diagramming - great link.
posted by iconomy at 4:04 PM on July 3, 2002

It's a complete waste of time, EXCEPT when you need to learn French. Relative pronouns? Objects? Etc? All I know in English is what I learned in Paris.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:27 PM on July 3, 2002

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