When I came to Lutheran High School of Dallas in 1984, the grammar book they were using was Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition (Complete Course). *
Here’s a paragraph from that book about Adjective Clauses:
Since a subordinate clause, like a sentence, has a verb and a subject and may contain complements and modifiers, it is diagrammed very much like a sentence. Adjective and adverb clauses are placed on a horizontal line below the main line. An adjective clause begun by a relative pronoun is joined to the word it modifies by a slanting broken line drawn neatly from the modified word to the relative pronoun (55).
Uh, you see what I mean? Anyone still breathing out there?
And apart from the fact that diagramming sentences to learn to punctuate, it seems to me, is like mowing your lawn with scissors, this just does not make sense to any but two or three people out there, and that may include the authors, who are listed in the biblio note below*.
To return to the car metaphor, this would be like giving someone a lesson in driving a car that sounds like this:
“Good morning, Bobbie! The first thing you need to do today is to take a hold of the burlibuss and then put the zimgotty into the warlap, and then just turn it to start the car. Then look through the mogglesand and put the galumphet into gear and then very slowly push the credaris with your right foot to back the car out of the driveway.”
It wouldn’t work, would it? We wouldn’t make it out of the driveway—much less “downtown to work.”
But that’s what we need to do when we’re driving. We need to get somewhere.
And that’s what we need to do when we are writing and punctuating a sentence. We need to know grammar in a way that lets us drive the sentence all the way downtown with confidence.
And what does that take? Clear understanding!
You can’t figure out where to use commas in the following sentence if you don’t know some grammar.
My truck which is a Nissan has 60,000 miles on it.
And no amount of memorizing words or rules or note cards is going to do the trick if you don’t understand the concepts of the steering wheel AND the ignition AND the gas pedal AND the rear window AND the transmission. (And, notice you can’t just know some of it—you need to know ALL of it!)
Now here is the way Loving Grammar: Mr. Lund’s Guide to Professional Clamdigging™ works (and let me explain it working backwards).
And how does it do that, may I ask?
Well let’s take a look.
Let’s say we have a sentence like this: John bought his wife a red convertible.
Here’s the test in the book for adjectives:
Adjective Memory Sentence
It (or he or she) is very ______________.
Example: It is very strange. He is very tricky.
(Strange and tricky are adjectives.)
So can we say “it is very red?”
Yes, we can, and that proves that red is an adjective.
How about wife? Is that an adjective?
Well, does it work in the test sentence?
Can we say “it is very wife?”
Uh, no! I don’t think so. Not unless your name is Rambo or Tarzan. So now we know that “wife” is not an adjective. (And another test in the book proves what that word is. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you.)
This is the way that Loving Grammar: Mr. Lund’s Guide to Professional Clamdigging™ works. It works with actual people (Felix, Giovanni, and Kristy) taking them patiently through the process to make sure that every one of them can find the ‘steering wheel’ and the ‘transmission’ and the ‘gas pedal.’ Because if you can’t find them, you can’t drive the sentence!
And when they are done (Felix and Giovanni and Kristy), believe me, they can ALL drive the sentence! And so will you too. Anyone of any age can learn to drive a sentence!
*Warriner, John E. and Griffith, Francis. English Grammar and Composition. NewYork: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1977.