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Want Some Fun? Why Not Diagram a Sentence?

Updating the links in my Writing Resources, I visited an old favorite site and experienced the nostalgia of diagramming sentences. The site is Guide to Grammar and Writing, sponsored by Capital Community College. Use this link for its useful, free PowerPoint presentations, including one on diagramming sentences.

As a girl (and a budding writing teacher), I excelled at diagramming sentences, but I have not done it in many years. It was fun to follow the slide presentation, to watch the subject and verb placed on the main branch, the modifiers added as stems. I even enjoyed disagreeing with one of the slides (disagreeing being a special pleasure of those who cherish the fine points of language).

In many business writing seminars, someone admits, “I use to love diagramming sentences. Will we do that?” We never do, in class. But for those of you who want to experience sentence diagramming, here is your chance. It may be plain compared with the latest slide shows, but if you have fond memories of diagramming sentences in chalk on blackboards, the low-tech approach will feel just right.

Credit: Professor Charles Darling created much if not all of the content on the Guide to Grammar and Writing site. He died last year. I never knew Professor Darling, but I am grateful for the generous spirit and love of teaching that fill the pages.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

3 comments on “Want Some Fun? Why Not Diagram a Sentence?”

  • Lynn,

    I recently stumbled upon your site while looking for sample bereavement thank you letters, which, by the way, I found easily on your site. The section on diagramming sentences made me laugh, as my high school and college friends thought I was crazy because I used to diagram just for fun. Your site is now bookmarked as a favorite and I’m thrilled that you have made it available for adults to reference. Thank you!

  • Good day, Lynn! I’ve been looking for sample sentence diagrams with colons but couldn’t find one. Could you possibly help? I’ve already downloaded Prof. Darling’s presentation but there’s none there either.

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