Fun With Diagramming Sentences

I was a shy kid. I could disappear in to a book all day and never miss the world outside of those pages. I was never good at sports, and suffered the humiliation of being the last person picked for soccer, for kickball, for baseball, for flag football, for everything…

But Mrs. Tateshi in junior high introduced our class to a game where Brian Gallagher and I were made permanent team captains. We were so good at the game, the class complained, that if we were on the same team we would crush our opponents. I was thrilled at the power of choosing who to pick, rather than waiting, turn after turn, to be left to the end. Popular kids looked to me for advice and winning streaks.

I became a champion of competitive sentence diagramming.

Two teams face off at the chalk board. The teacher reads the sentence to be diagrammed. The first person on each team puts up the first element (the line for subject and predicate), then retires to the back of the lineup.  Each person can add only one element at a time, so the first two spots on your roster can go to weaker players, adding the base line and the division between subject and predicate. The next person usually added the subject, and then the real work began. Like in baseball, you wanted your power hitter up 4th, not to drive in runs, but to put a harder word in place, after the easy pickin’s have all been taken.

I was profoundly disappointed to find out that this game was unknown outside our class, and that I had to retire before high school.

However, I found a fellow fan of the game, Kitty Burns Florey, when she published a beautifully written article in Slate magazine during the 2008 election on the ultimate challenge: diagramming Sarah Palin. For example this gem from her Katie Couric interview:

It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where—where do they go?

Take a stab at it yourself, and then scroll down to check out the master’s work below, and the rest of the article (Thank you Kitty!).

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It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where—where do they go?

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