I have never diagrammed a sentence in my life. I was never taught this in school. People often ask me how I gained my knowledge of grammar, and the answer is just that I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. It’s hard not to learn sentence structure when you’re constantly reading.
I was, however, quite amused to find a diagrammed sentence spoken by our President at his first official press conference.
Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein asked President Obama (PRESIDENT OBAMA! PRESIDENT OBAMA! IT STILL THRILLS ME TO HEAR OR READ THAT!) whether he would consider investigating members of the Bush Administration, up to and including Bush himself.
The President’s response:
“My view is also that nobody’s above the law, and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.”
First, the elegant balance of the central construction (My view is that x, and that y, but also that z) shows that Obama has a good memory for where he’s been, grammatically, and a strong sense of where he’s going. His tripartite analysis of the problem is clearly reflected in the structure of the sentence, and thus in the three main branches of the diagram. (Turn it on its side and it could be a mobile.) The third “that” – thrown in 29 words into a 43-word sentence – creates three parallel predicate nouns. And then there’s a little parallel flourish at the end: “I am more interested in looking forward than I am in looking back.”
I think I blacked out while reading that — but it’s still awesome.