LMD Timing Making Sentence Diagrams

Initially, I attempted to complete this project template in the main Projects category in full. I noticed how much effort that was, took a break from it, came back to it, noticed it was still hard, then went to check the Project category pinned topics for more detail on the intended use of the project template. In About the Projects category I found that Elliot says:

I unnecessarily spent too much time on setting up that project template which delayed the start of my project project. I also found that my project was more suited to the Mini Projects section.

Project Summary:

I time myself completing 5 sentence diagrams in order to investigate how much effort it takes me to do so. I then post the diagrams and times recorded here.


Time myself correctly completing 5 sentence dependency diagrams, then post them here. Each sentence to be timed individually.

Success criteria (& optional failure criteria):

Whether I do or do not time and complete 5 sentence dependency diagrams. Also, if I find out via feedback from others that I have made an important error that misrepresents the meaning of the sentence, I’ll consider that failure.

Big picture goal, why you want to do this, or CF relevance:

Self-assessing how much effort it takes me to do sentence dependency diagrams is going to help me decide whether I need to do more practise on these before beginning other practise activities. Also, it will give me information I can use for planning future projects that involve sentences.


Shortly I’ll be making 5 sentence diagrams from a section of Elliot’s recent article that I haven’t read fully. I am going to try and quickly pick a paragraph that at first glance appears within my skill range.

I will not stop the timer until I have decided that I think the tree accurately represents the meaning of the sentence and it is entirely correct.

I will time myself using my iPhone stopwatch. My goal here is not precision. I am looking to see if a sentence takes me under 5 minutes, 10 minutes or an hour.


Elliot commented on my Sentence Analysis Practise topic in unbounded saying:

So this made me think that I need to find a way to measure how big of a deal it is to make a few more sentences. If I knew it might take me around 5-10 minutes or less to do a sentence diagram then I know better if I could afford to take a break from reading an article to analyse a sentence without to much hassle.

Project Conclusion

I think my project has failed.

On purpose, I chose sentences without reading them in detail. This was so I could analyse them under a timer, and not have the sentences partially analysed in my mind already. But this meant that some of the sentences were too hard for me.

I did four sentences that I thought were right. The first one took me 55 minutes, the next couple were quick but on the 5th one I gave up because I got stuck, and the time I had budgeted to complete all of them ran out. My project goal was to make, time, and post 5 sentences, so later on I selected another one to do. But since some of the sentences I was working on had similar features that I found difficult (e.g implied words creating relative clauses), after doing a few I got a better idea of how do them. And now I have noticed some errors in some of the sentences I already timed and did.

I don’t think my project plan was good enough to account for this. I was expecting to have some diagrams I thought were correct and times for them. I didn’t expect to have diagrams I knew were wrong.

I intend to figure out a way to approach self-assessing making sentence diagrams. I think my plan might need only some small tweaks.

If it would be of help to anyone for me to post the sentences I worked on and the problems I encountered please let me know, I can post them, but I am not planning to atm.

I’d be curious to see them. But yeah some sentences can be really tricky to do perfectly (even if they’re pretty easy to read or write). In philosophy discussions, doing a more approximate tree that gets the point across, or editing the sentences to be simpler, can both work without having to be super great at advanced grammar.

And if the first sentence took 55 minutes, then it sounds like it was too hard for your skills and/or you need more practice on easier sentences to speed up.

One place you can find easier sentences is books with a reading level specified. Like Harry Potter or some of Sanderson’s (Alcatraz, Rithmatist) or Heinlein’s (the juveniles) books are written for like a “6th grade” reading level so most of the sentences will be pretty easy. I think “young adult” might be easier too but I haven’t checked, but anything that specifies a grade level under 12 might be easy enough, and you can find stuff significantly below 12 if you want. The downside is it’s fiction, so it might take an extra step to get more used to doing non-fiction sentences later, and you’ll run into a few different/extra things (like dialog). I did some Harry Potter sentence trees in a YouTube video which IIRC all went quickly for me and I don’t think I pre-read them.

Sure, here is the long one (was actually ~52minutes):

One of the standard ways of paying attention to something you think may be bad is debate.

I was stuck on the relative clause ‘you think may be bad’ for ages. I think I had the rest of the tree done in 5-10 minutes.

I ended up having ‘may be’ as an infinitive node because the modal verb ‘may’ makes ‘be’ an infinitive. I now realise that a ‘to be’ node would make sense in the same place. That makes this seem correct to me.

I was trying to decide on the above version and a version that had a ‘think be’ node modified by ‘may’, but ‘may’ seemed to more specifically be modifying ‘be’.


It’s typical to debate with people you think are wrong.

Time ~13 mins

This had (i think) ‘that’ implied twice and an implied ‘they’.


It’s typical to debate against ideas you don’t spend your time studying and trying to learn from.

Time ~12 mins


It’s typical to debate with ideas you rejected.

Time ~2 mins:

Thanks for those. I did not know I could find books that specify a grade level.

I do in general enjoy reading non-fiction much more (except for Rand’s novels which I prefer as much) but tbh I haven’t tried reading fiction that much except for a few classics in the past, some of which I did like (I at least finished them), and Rand.

I think adding an implied “and” conjoining “think” and “are” is incorrect.

This kind of sentence is tricky to figure out the precise grammar for, but not very hard to read. An approximate tree may be adequate for many goals because there isn’t confusion about what the words mean. More precise trees are more helpful in cases where people are getting confused about the meaning. (I don’t think the implied “and” version is good for an approximate tree though. I think it’s confusing.)

This looks close enough to be reasonably functional/useful. I think the “studying and trying” part is typically considered an indirect object of “spend”, not a modifier of “time” (note you have them as nouns not modifiers).

One way to handle indirect objects, besides just directly putting them in a tree, is to read them as involving an implied preposition. The advantage of treating it as an implied preposition is to reduce the number of special cases in English (by never using indirect objects), plus the preposition makes the relationship involved more explicit. In this case, adding an implied “on” as a child of “do spend” would work.

I think that tree is good for 2 minutes. It shows you have some of this stuff automatized.

What did you do while being stuck? Did you do concrete actions or just sit and try to ponder? Pondering for up to 5 minutes is often helpful, but if you’re stuck longer than that then you probably should do concrete actions. One thing I’d suggest is creating simpler sentences (or phrases) which have similarities to what you’re stuck on and analyzing those.

Some example sentences that could be useful to consider in this case are “You think it may be bad.”, “I like something that you think is bad.”, “I think something may be bad.”, “I like something but you think it’s bad.”, “A big house that is clean is nice to own.”, and “A big house you love is nice to own.”.

Regardless of the details, you do seem to have gotten the main concept right (that “you think may be bad” is a modifier clause for “something”).

Here’s the last paragraph of the first chapter of The Goal by Eli Goldratt:

I can feel my face getting hot. The cold hand is gone. Now I’m so pissed off at Bill Peach that I’m fantasizing about calling him on the phone and screaming in his ear. It’s his fault! And in my head I see him. I see him behind my desk and hear him telling me how he’s going to show me how to get the orders out the door. Right, Bill. You really showed me how to do it.

These sentences look pretty simple. I just grabbed something without really paying attention; this isn’t cherry-picked. This book is fiction but it’s better as philosophy than almost all philosophy books. Maybe it’d work well for you since it sounds like you’re less interested in non-intellectual fiction.

I think the “studying and trying” part is typically considered an indirect object of “spend”, not a modifier of “time” (note you have them as nouns not modifiers).

Ok I think this makes sense to me. Studying and learning aren’t adjectives modifying time. The object isn’t ‘studying and learning time’. The object is ‘time’ and it is being spent on ‘studying and learning’.

One way to handle indirect objects, besides just directly putting them in a tree, is to read them as involving an implied preposition.

Awesome, yup I can see that that would work now.

What did you do while being stuck?

By stuck I meant basically something like: became unable to reach a solution I was happy with. I did come up with some example sentences that appeared similar and tried those in order to help with my perspective on the problem. I did about 5 smaller trees to help me. I was also actively searching through your grammar article and the grammar tree materials in your gumroad grammar course for relevant info. And I was using google, and dictionaries. I almost always am using some of these materials or techniques when doing sentence trees in order to help with problems and double check parts that I’m not 100% on.

I don’t know why exactly but I failed to mention Goldratt when indicating my preference for non-fiction over fiction. I actually have read The Goal, It’s Not Luck, The Choice, and part of Critical Chain, all of which I think are great, and all of which I plan to go back and read in more detail once I get a few more of my skills up to scratch. I could’ve anticipated that you’d mention him if I didn’t. I’m sorry to have wasted your time by giving the false impression that I hadn’t heard of or read Goldratt.

However, I hadn’t considered going to Goldratt for practising sentences yet. So thanks.

I just timed doing diagrams for the sentences in that paragraph you posted. There are 8 sentences in it. I have also included any example sentences trees I made during the process.

  1. 1:06 mins

I can feel my face getting hot.

Screenshot 2023-11-16 at 11.58.05 am

  1. 17 seconds

The cold hand is gone.

Screenshot 2023-11-16 at 11.58.43 am

  1. 7:10 mins

Now I’m so pissed off at Bill Peach that I’m fantasizing about calling him on the phone and screaming in his ear.

  1. 30 seconds

It’s his fault!

Screenshot 2023-11-16 at 12.00.50 pm

  1. 1:30 mins

And in my head I see him.

Do you agree with this way of representing sentences that start with ‘and’?

  1. 15:40 mins

I see him behind my desk and hear him telling me how he’s going to show me how to get the orders out the door.

A problem I ran into is I’m not confident on how to diagram ‘how’. It seems i’ve not encountered it a lot somehow?

  1. Skipped

  2. 5:00 mins

You really showed me how to do it.

sure that’s reasonable

it’s a relative adverb here. it makes a modifier clause. it’s similar to a relative pronoun. i’m not sure what reading level you’d need to find if you wanted to avoid nested sub-clauses like that.