Given the rise of e-filing and of software that makes it easier than ever to create images and insert them into documents, the nearly lost art of sentence diagramming may be due for a revival in written legal advocacy. This article posits that while sentence diagrams can indeed, in a limited set of cases, add to the persuasive force of a statutory-interpretation argument, the diagrams themselves are less compelling than attorneys may believe them to be, and diagrams cannot elucidate all types of interpretive issues. Like an analogy, a sentence diagram can illustrate an argument aptly — or ineptly — and counsel’s ability to come up with an illustrative analogy or a diagram is no guarantee that the illustrated argument has merit. This article first explains the nature of sentence diagrams and then discusses their potential utility in briefs. It then describes two cases where the inclusion of diagrams in briefs was less useful, or even counterproductive. In closing, it offers some concrete advice to attorneys on the use of sentence diagrams in written legal advocacy.
Lisa Eichhorn, Old Habits: Sister Bernadette and the Potential Revival of Sentence Diagramming in Written Legal Advocacy, 13 Legal Comm. & Rhetoric: JAWLD 79 (2016).