ENG209 202002 Undergraduate

Winter 2021
ENG 209
Applies To: 
The Craft of the Sentence

Gordon Sayre

Gordon Sayre profile picture
  • Title: Professor
  • Additional Title: Interim Summer 2020 Head of English, Director of Undergraduate Studies
  • Phone: 541-346-1313
  • Office: 472 PLC
  • Office Hours: Fall term: WED 1:30 - 3 pm; THUR noon - 1:30 pm
Department Section Description: 

The goal of this course is to learn how to analyze the structure, or syntax, of English sentences. Our method will be sentence diagramming, a technique for identifying and separating the elements of a sentence--such as the subject, object, verb, prepositions, phrases and clauses--in a graphic arrangement. We will occasionally be concerned with English usage (choosing the appropriate word on the basis of signification or register), and rarely with punctuation and capitalization.

The course is intended to be a writing course as well as a grammar course. To many people, “grammar” refers to a series of rules that classify a given word or sentence construction as correct or incorrect. English teachers are often portrayed as sticklers or pedants who attempt to enforce grammar rules upon students and the public. Grammar is more accurately understood as a dynamic set of cognitive structures that are shared by all native speakers of a language, and acquired by second-language learners. There are many theories among linguists about how best to explain these cognitive structures, but this is not a linguistics course and we will not explore that topic. Rest assured that diagramming sentences only scratches the surface of grammar’s complexity.

A secondary goal of the course is for students to improve their writing by learning how to construct better sentences. Rather than simply try to respond to the admonitions of writing teachers who complain about awkward or flabby writing and mark up grammar and punctuation errors without explaining the reasons behind their complaints, students can learn what lies behind their instructors' comments, to see how clarity and simplicity can be achieved in a sentence, and then to craft strong paragraphs and arguments.


Lower-Division Elective

Lower-division Elective courses allow students to choose (or “elect”) courses or faculty specific to their own developing interests, enabling them thereby to shape their own educational experience.  Major II students can also use one lower-division elective to fulfill the Writing Requirement with ENG 209 The Craft of the Sentence.


Writing Requirement courses focus on the technical terms and conceptual principles needed to write clear, grammatical prose aimed at communicating with force and logic.  Upper-division courses focus on professional writing and the creation of individual styles.

English Minor

English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts.  The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.