June 25, 2010
The Printable KISS Grammar Workbooks
Diagramming Sentences
within the KISS Approach
Camille Corot

      Once a year or so I am asked about Reed-Kellogg diagrams in conjunction with KISS Grammar. Such diagrams can surely be used within KISS Grammar, but there are a few problems. In the first place, years ago I included a few such diagrams on the KISS site, only to be told that my diagrams were "wrong." Just as there are disagreements about definitions of grammatical terms, so, it turns out, are there disagreements about Reed-Kellogg diagrams. Add that to the fact that such diagrams take time to make and take up a lot of space, and you may understand why I took down the diagrams.
     I do understand, however, that such diagrams can help some students better understand sentence structure. It is certainly true that diagrams can help some people see how the parts of a sentence fit together. Consider the following diagram of the sentence:

Hard work in our youth pays well in old age.

The diagram is from English for Use, by John H. Beveridge and Bell M. Ryan,  p. 381. I'll never forget being in a doctor's office. When he learned that I teach English, he raved about how much he loved such diagrams. Some people not only find such diagrams helpful, they love them.
     Diagrams also present compounding much more visually than KISS analysis does. The following is from the same book:

     What I like most about diagramming is that, in relatively simple compound sentences, diagrams can show how all the words in one main clause connect to one main S/V/C pattern, and all the words in another main clause connect to the other S/V/C patterns, as in the following from the same book:

Unfortunately, the diagrams that students are given are, as this one is, simplistic. The focus is on how to draw the diagram for various constructions, rather than on how to diagram real sentences.
     And, as constructions are added, they quickly become more complex. What rules, for example, do students need to memorize in order to make the following diagram?

This diagram, also from the same book, illustrates how to diagram a noun clause that functions as a subject.

     If we turn from diagramming simple constructions to diagramming real sentences, consider the following from Kitty Burns Florey's Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog (Melville House Publishing, 2006, p. 109.

Imagine the time it takes to make such a diagram! In a recent discussion of diagramming on the KISS List, most contributors much preferred the KISS system of analysis, which is much easier and faster to use.
      Still, for those who like diagramming, there is nothing to prevent you from making diagrams for KISS exercises. I would suggest that there may be disagreements about what lines go where, and that complications may arise from possible alternative explanations. But if someone wants to send me images of diagrams for a KISS exercise (sentences or passage), I'll be happy to put it on the KISS site.

Sentence Diagramming Web Sites

Programs to Assist with Diagramming

Diagramming Sentences, by Prof. G. Dalgish. http://faculty.baruch.cuny.edu/gdalgish/NewDiagramming/diagramguide.htm

This program enables people to drag and drop words into a pre made diagram structure. It is interesting, but there are some problems in getting the words to stay where they belong. (It does not allow for alternative explanations. For example, expletives are always explained as expletives.
SenDraw, by UCF Department of English http://www.sendraw.ucf.edu/
I have not tried this one, but it appears to be a program comparable to "Diagramming Sentences" by Prof. Dalgish.
Other Resources on Sentence Diagramming

Hagen, Carl, "The Early History of Sentence Diagrams," http://www.polysyllabic.com/?q=olddiagrams

Kimball, Sara, "Basics of Reed-Kellogg diagrams," http://www.utexas.edu/courses/langling/e360k/handouts/diagrams/diagram_basics/basics.html

A search of the web will lead you to numerous other resources.