Saturday, September 12, 2009

Deceased?--Diagramming Sentences

Remember high school and those English classes when time was spent diagramming sentences? I'm not sure if such an exercise was successful and I am not even sure such exercises are being done anymore, but they could certainly be interesting.

A sentence from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter...

"In my native town of Salem, at the head of what, half a century ago, in the days of old King Derby, was a bustling wharf--but which is now burdened with decayed wooden warehouses, and exhibits few or no symptoms of commercial life; except, perhaps, a bark or brig, half-way down its melancholy length, discharging hides; or, nearer at hand, a Nova Scotia schooner, pitching out her cargo of firewood--at the head, I say, of this dilapidated wharf, which the tide often overflows, and along which, at the base and in the rear of the row of buildings, the track of many languid years is seen in a border of unthrifty grass--here, with a view from its front windows adown this not very enlivening prospect, and thence across the harbour, stands a spacious edifice of brick."

For more information see Eugene R. Moutoux's web site.


Timothy said...

another was none other than.....Marcel Proust from Grammar Girl....
"It’s from his masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past, also translated as In Search of Lost Time), and it starts thus: “Their honor precarious, their liberty provisional, lasting only until the discovery of their crime; their position unstable....” Blah, blah, blah. I’ve examined it numerous times over the last two decades, but I’ve yet to finish wading through all 958 words. At 150 words longer than this entire column, the sentence is just unreadable. Believe me, I’ve tried to stick with it till the end, but it’s impossible."

Elizabeth said...

I love your sentence diagram! Wow! You are lucky that you learned how to diagram sentences in school. Public schools don't teach diagramming anymore, but a few private schools do.

After using sentence diagramming with my students for a few years, I found that it was so beneficial, I started a website devoted to diagramming sentences.

It's called English Grammar Revolution. If you are interested, check it out.


Mercury said...


I should be flattered but I did not do the Hawthorn sentence diagram. It came from Eugene R. Moutoux's web site. I am certain that I would fail to construct such a complicated structure. Sentence diagramming is very cool and quite logical and I doubt that it is taught anymore. I honestly believe that it would assist people in better writing skills.