INSTRUCTIONAL AIDS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HELPFUL. Economists grapple with what ought to be-self evident when it comes to presenting Marshallian crosses and Viner diagrams and level sets of quasiconcave functions. They're great fun for spatial-quantitative types but a pain for everybody else. For the record, I've removed almost all of those from any introductory class I teach.

Something similar might be said about sentence diagrams. Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Digramming Sentences, the direct object of Book Review No. 19, makes that case. Perhaps it's a lost art in part because the main title parses as DOG \ SISTER BERNADETTE'S \ BARKING. Author Kitty Burns Flory enjoyed showing off her skills to Sister Bernadette. She also demonstrated other methods of modelling sentence structure, some of which were less intuitive than the manual according to Sister Bernadette and John E. Warriner. A passage that refers to a model called a tree diagram notes (p. 138)
These are considered more complete and, according to a friend of mine who teaches them, easier: traditional diagrams not only distort the original word order of a sentence, but, as I've mentioned, can also be insanely complex even when they're dealing with a relatively ordinary sentence.
Never mind some of the constructions of poets and novelist, see chapter 4. And perhaps the method does not help distinguish sensible from incoherent writing. Quickly: diagram "Farmer Bill Dies in House." (See p. 61). If it did, perhaps we could ask Congress to use a diagramming method as part of crafting legislation. Try this.
Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.
Does that prepositional phrase "in restraint of trade or commerce" attach to "conspiracy" or to all three of "contract, combination, conspiracy"? Would the Supreme Court have an easier time discerning the Intent Of Congress with sentence diagrams in the Congressional Record?

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge).

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