A diagram shows the structure of a sentence by making a “picture” of it. Every diagram starts with a base line which contains the subject and the verb.
This is how is looks: __subject_|_verb__
Remember that the base line is a horizontal line and the subject and the verb are separated by a vertical line which goes all the way through the horizontal line. If you need a refresher on how to get started with diagramming, you can read our other post on it.
Once you have your base line, you can start to add other elements. We’re going to add adjectives and articles. They are diagrammed on diagonal lines attached to the noun or pronoun they modify. They should be diagrammed in the same order that they are in the sentence.
For example, we have the sentence “Our special guest sang.” First, let’s break down the sentence.
Our (adjective) special (adjective) guest (noun) sang (verb).
Next, let’s draw our baseline: __guest_|_sang__
Finally, we draw diagonal lines attached to the noun/pronoun. In this sentence, both “our” and “special” modify the noun “guest,” so we draw two diagonal lines from it. It should look like this:
See how the lines for the adjectives slant off the noun on the base line? Pretty simple, right?
What happens if you have two or more adjectives joined by a conjunction (“and,” “but,” or “or”)? They are still diagrammed the same way, with diagonal lines slanting off the word being modified, but the words joined by the conjunction are also connected by a dotted line.
For example, we have the sentence “My black and white dog barked.” Let’s break it down:
My (adjective) black (adjective) and (conjunction) white (adjective) dog (noun) barked (verb).
Now, time to diagram. First, we draw our base line. _________dog_|_barked__
Notice that I made my base line part for “dog” a little longer than usual? That’s because we have three adjectives to connect with a slanted line, so this gives them room.
Next, we draw the slanted lines for “my,” “black,” and “white.” It should look like this so far:
Finally, we add in the conjunction. In this sentence, “and” connects the adjectives “black” and “white,” so we draw a dotted line connecting the two slant lines for those adjectives, and we place the word “and” above the dotted line. It should look like this when you are done:
Finally, imagine the same sentence above, except that the adjective “my” is replaced by the article “the.” You still do the same thing (diagonal line), because the article “the” would be modifying the noun “dog.” That’s it!
Now you can diagram more complex sentences! Diagramming is a great visual way to break down and visually examine the various elements in your sentence. It helps keep writing clear, especially when sentences become more difficult.
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