The concept of the diagram has a rich history in many theoretical disciplines as well as in applied practices. This essay suggests that a dialogue between theory and practice can be used to explore the potential of digital platforms for developing an approach to writing and display that takes advantage of the semantically constitutive effects of format features. This approach would borrow from manuscript conventions, as well as those of print, and combine them with the specific affordances of newer media. In development of such an approach, and such a discourse, this article pursues a critical, descriptive language of the rhetorical effects of spatial relations that addresses graphical features (juxtaposition, hierarchy, interlinearity, proximity and so on) and their capacity to produce semantic value.