Sunday, February 15, 2015

“Draft” from The New York Times, Part 2: Diagramming, A History

Every now and then, I hear people boasting about how skilled they were in diagramming sentences back in elementary school or lamenting what they consider to be the lost art of diagramming. Ah, I remember diagramming well, the activity by which we care not about the meaning of words but their grammatical function as we place each one in its proper place along a demarcated line with potentially limitless sub-lines. 

While I did pretty well at this task myself, I am not about to praise or bury it, but simply to draw attention to an excellent New York Times article, "A Picture of Language," by Kitty Burns Florey in the series Draft. In this brief essay, Florey nicely summarizes the history of diagramming in public education. She covers this topic in depth in her book Sister  Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Curious History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.

I bring this article to your attention because diagramming remains a controversial topic for those who argue whether we should teach language and writing structurally or stylistically.