Rightly Divide! Why You Should Learn the Lost Art of Sentence Diagramming

I’ve harped on a previous post reasons why sentence diagramming is helpful for studying and exegeting a biblical passage. In this post, I hope to give some reasons why a person would want to bother learning to diagram at all. Here are some reasons to learn all that grammar jargon and all those nonsensical nuisance shapes.

Sentences are structured with purpose

Most people have a main idea along with their sub-ideas they are trying to convey when they write. Typically, we don’t write willy-nilly unless for practice. There is purpose behind every letter, word, sentence, synonym. If we feel our message is that important for the person who is going to receive it, how much more the biblical authors felt as they wrote to the fledgeling churches and Christians? I’m certainly not suggesting they “diagramed” their own writings. But it is most certain they took great care in the wording and structure of their epistles and biographies. It was common practice for one to use an amanuensis (an ancient secretary) to pen their words and then to sign off on the letter before it was distributed. We see this in the book of Romans. As chapter 16 comes to a close, we understand that someone named Tertius actually wrote Romans, but the letter was approved by Paul before being sent out to the churches. In short, don’t dis proper grammar and sentence structure.

God spoke through grammar

Photo Courtesy of Beinecke Library

God has given us His written word for our comfort and assurance. This word includes things such as pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and participles. It seems unpleasant to have to learn all this stuff, but if it is viewed as a high and holy thing of God, it becomes less burdensome. Unfortunately, there’s not much glamour in learning grammar. You just have to dredge your way through it. Do it anyway! Make the best effort you can make. And no matter how tough it gets, don’t give up. A better understanding of grammar means a better understanding of God’s written word to us.

Diagrams help visual learners

Photo courtesy of The Tasmanian Archives and The State Library

Some people learn easier when they study a picture. Sentence diagrams are simply “pictures” of the sentence structure. Each word is placed according to its function in the sentence. Once these placeholders are memorized, it expedites the learner’s awareness of how each word is being used. Visual aids are always a helpful tool.

How do we go about learning diagramming? The internet has become a plethora of information. You can learn just about anything you desire by simply Googling the topic. But if you’e still not sure where to go, I’ve listed some great resources for you below. These will get you headed in the right direction.

English Grammar Revolution–this site is my go-to place for a grammar refresher. There are plenty of videos, exercises, and instructions to take you from beginning grammar student to Diagram Guru in their short and well-explained tutorials. The site is also divided nicely into their respective sections. Each section builds upon the previous, so be sure to read them in order.

Let’s Diagram Web App–Once you start learning sentence diagramming, you’ll need a place to practice. Why write it out when you can simply drag and drop all of your sentence elements onto a canvas? The web app allows you to type or paste any sentence, including bible verses, into the box and then diagram them. Be aware though, that the app costs $5/monthly to use. The free version only gives you five sentences a month. You’ll need much more than that to practice, so shell out the money for a few months. You’ll be glad you did! Below, is a video tutorial on using the web app.

Video tutorial of the Let’s Diagram web app.

The last resource I would like to share with you comes from a middle school grammar book published by Glencoe McGraw-Hill publishing. It’s pretty fascinating considering that most public schools have stopped teaching this lost art form. Below is a PDF of the book. It walks you through all the necessary steps of sentences and gives ample examples of sentence constructions that may be confusing to students when they first encounter them.

I hope this post has encouraged you to delve a little more into learning well the grammar and language God used to convey His precious message. God bless you seek to learn and study the bible in all diligence!