Diagramming Sentences: Grammar’s X-Ray Machine

Yeah… I hear the booing and hissing. I see the eyes rolling. Sentence diagramming? Are you kidding, Annie?

No. I’m. Not.

Diagramming is essential to writing better fiction.

Complain all you want, but diagramming can improve your writing immensely.

Just like the ER X-ray taken of my foot to see if I broke it tripping over a rattlesnake on a hiking trail (Okay, it turned out to be a stick, but it was a huge stick, and I saw it move… twice.), a sentence diagram helps you see the structure of what you wrote.

By placing the various parts in relation to the basic subject-verb relationship, you can see how the parts fit together and how the meaning of your sentence branches out. You get a clear understanding of how your sentence is working or why it’s not.

If you can’t see something is broken, you can’t fix it. If you can’t diagram a sentence to see if something is broken, you can’t fix it. Simple, huh?

You don’t have to diagram every sentence.

Sometimes you know something is wrong with a sentence, but you can’t quite figure it out. That’s when to have fun with diagramming.

Yes. Fun.

When you diagram a sentence, you know everything about each word in that sentence, how each word functions, and how each part interacts or doesn’t.Like my foot X-ray, a sentence diagram is an intimate look at your sentence. You see each word and how it functions within that sentence. You can do things like:

  • SPOT too many adjectives or adverbs.
  • CATCH passive voice.
  • DOUBLE-CHECK subject-verb agreement.
  • FIX incorrect pronoun reference.
  • DISCOVER you’re using too many words.

Often, if you can’t figure out how to diagram your sentence, you have a problem sentence.

The more you diagram, the better you get at seeing common writing problems.

Ergo, the more you diagram, the better your writing becomes. Become a better writer, and you could stop diagramming.

But you won’t stop. It’s addicting.

Contrary to popular belief, diagramming isn’t difficult. See for yourself. I have a handy, dandy booklet called “Diagramming Fiction Sentences for Fun… Yes, Fun!” I can send you. Email me at annie@annieedits.com to request yours.

Then, have fun. Yes, fun.

Write on!

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