Catherine Johnson posted praise for the book Sentence Diagramming: A Step-by-Step Approach to Learning Grammar Through Diagramming by Marye Hefty, Sallie Ortiz, and Sara Nelson, published in 2008.
Sentence diagramming has a long history in US education—Wikipedia claims it started with Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg’s 1877 book Higher Lessons in English. The Wikipedia article Sentence diagram has a fairly good, if rather brief, presentation of the Reed-Kellogg system.
Paul Kaiser praises the 1894 text A Key Containing Diagrams of the Sentences Given for Analysis in Reed and Kellogg’s Graded Lessons in English, and Higher Lessons in English, and sentence diagramming in general:
Not only does the schoolboy’s exercise of sentence diagramming act to slow down the rapid consumption of the sentence, which usually goes down much too smoothly, but it also puts it at a nice remove from the throat—that is, from the voice—pushing it back towards the mind. You start regarding the sentence not as an utterance but rather as a mechanism whose workings you can pick apart. You see it spatially rather than temporally.
I particularly liked the elegance and balance of one example that Kaiser scanned: “The mind is a goodly field, and to sow it with trifles is the worst husbandry in the world.”
I learned sentence diagramming in junior high, which would be the mid 1960s, about the time that Marye Hefty claims that sentence diagramming was phased out of American education. I hope that it makes a comeback, as it provides an excellent way for those of us with analytic or spatial ways of thinking to learn grammar. Given the very poor grammar of many of the engineering students whose work I have to read, finding or resurrecting an efficient way to teach them grammar would be valuable indeed.
There are several tutorials on the web, which I have not reviewed, because I have no particular desire to revisit my junior-high years:
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeHhFuxw_5w for those who prefer video instruction to reading.
- http://homeworktips.about.com/od/englishhomework/ss/diagram.htm for those whose attention spans are too short for anything more than tiny, bite-size snippets of information.
- http://www.surfnetkids.com/diagramming_sentences.htm is not a tutorial, but has links to five or six sites that are.