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3.8: Manifestos

  • Page ID
    73345
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    How to Write a Manifesto

    This guide was37 co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD; Updated: March 29, 2019

    A manifesto is a document wherein a person, government, or organization outlines their intentions, motivations, and/or views. These texts ask and attempt to answer the question: What do I believe? The Declaration of Independence is a form of manifesto. There are artistic manifestos, philosophical manifestos, corporate manifestos, personal manifestos, and political manifestos. A religious manifesto is referred to as “a creed”. The word manifesto comes from Latin, and it connotes something which is very clear and conspicuous. While the length and content of a manifesto varies between each one, any well-composed manifesto will not only present clear attack on a worldview, but also a practical means to manifest goals. When writing a manifesto, you should keep all this in mind.

    Preparing to Write Your Manifesto

    Start with a meaningful question. This is a way to help you form inspiring ideas. These meaningful questions can give you focus. You may wish to ask more than one, or to focus on topics surrounding a particular question. Some examples of meaningful questions include:

    • What do you want your legacy (as an individual, group or organization) to be?
    • What gives your life purpose and meaning?
    • What types of actions are aligned with your values?
    • How do you want to show up in the world?
    • What do you want to accomplish in your life?
    • What are you willing to do to achieve those accomplishments?

    Think about your audience. To whom are you writing the manifesto? Will your work be read by your colleagues, the general public, or clients? This may change how you choose to use language. A theological manifesto might have a lot of academic terminology if your audience is academics, but it might use very plain speech if it is directed at a wider audience.

    Brainstorm your ideas. When you're first starting out, don't feel like you have to know exactly what you're going to say. Just write down your ideas in little brainstorming sessions. There are lots of ways to go about brainstorming. Choose one which suits you best, and which enables you to most freely jot down your ideas. The key is not to criticize, but to open yourself up to ideas.

    • Thought webs can help you to connect many different ideas. Make sure you are adding as many connected details as you can. This will also help you to build an outline.
    • Lists are a great way to get a lot of ideas down quickly. Make a list for each section of your manifesto, and to title them appropriately.
    • Stream of consciousness writing can help you to get your brain working on the topic. By writing whatever comes to mind, and not worrying about the punctuation and grammar conventions, you can feel free to express important concepts. Give yourself a time limit and see how much you can jot down in that time.

    Research. By researching your topic, you will strengthen your ideas. Provide yourself with sources to back up your argument. Also, survey other manifestos to see if anyone has written something similar which can provide you with models.

    • Read other manifestos on a similar topic for useful tools and arguments. Famous manifestos include: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, "I Have a Dream" by Martin Luther King, or John F Kennedy's "Man on the Moon.”
    • Strengthen your arguments by reading the opponents of your views online. Take a class if you have the time and the money.
    • Familiarize yourself with theory surrounding your topic. Go to your local library or bookstore and ask a librarian or clerk to help you find similar writers.

    Write an outline. Once you have enough ideas that you see a unifying point, make an outline. This will help you to arrange your ideas once you write. Put them into a logical order. Make sure to include an introduction and a conclusion in your outline. You don't need to write full sentences here. This is a point where you're just trying to figure out the flow of your writing.

    • Use Roman numerals to number the major sections.
    • Use uppercase letters to list details about the major sections.
    • Use Arabic numerals (1,2,3) to give specifics or examples about the details of your major sections.

    Writing the Manifesto

    Identify yourself and your aims. This might include your personal beliefs, your worldview, and your experiences that directly inform your manifesto. By introducing yourself, your readers will have a better sense of your life course.

    • Make sure that you share life details related to your ideas.
    • Relate important experiences from work, school, or life that help readers see you as an authority.
    • Mentioning your degree in art might be useful in an artist's manifesto, just as civil service would be worth mentioning in a political manifesto.

    Include a thesis. There should be some unifying point to your manifesto. This is delivered in your introduction. It will be a compelling argument, connecting all your ideas together. Make sure you take time to craft a well-written thesis statement.

    Explain your precepts in the introduction. A precept is an actionable ideal, an instruction meant to regulate behavior or thought. Tell your readers a little about what ideals they're going to read about, before they go into it. You don't want to say everything, just a little bit, so that readers can engage with your manifesto's larger picture. Give yourself at least one sentence to mention the main points of your manifesto.

    • You can use bullet points to list your precepts.
    • Follow a precept up with a sentence explanation if you need clarity but save most of your explaining for the body paragraphs. If it isn't merely presenting the precept, don't put it in the introduction.

    Give a plan for action. Don't just provide your ideas. Offer a direction for change. Manifestos are revolutionary by nature. Though not all revolutions are equal in scale, all share in this desire for change.

    • Focus on verbs to evoke a sense of action. Avoid verbs like "am/is/are", "have/has" and other passive constructions. For example: "Every artist manifests Art itself," instead of "Every artist is Art itself."
    • Use concrete details. Avoid words like "thing" and "something", as these are not specific. For example: "Something in our political system disturbs me" becomes "Negligence in our political system disturbs me."
    • Take a current problem and re-imagine it changed through your ideology.

    Elaborate on your ideas individually. Even for a short manifesto, you will want to make sure you devote a section to each of your main points. This will make your points more concrete for readers. It will also help to make sure you address any questions your readers might have.

    • Give each precept its own paragraph.
    • For longer sections, use a subheading.

    Be concise. A well written manifesto is crisp and sharp. The focus is clear and there is exactness in the intention. Its meaning and purpose are unmistakable. By keeping your manifesto concise, you avoid getting off-topic.

    Make sure to have a conclusion. This way you can remind your readers about what they've read and the main point of your manifesto. The conclusion will help give readers a sense of closure. Make sure to restate your thesis at some point during your conclusion.

    FAQ

    What's the key difference between a mission statement and a manifesto?

    A manifesto is a declaration of someone's intentions, motives or ideas. It usually proposes some changes that the group or individual thinks should be made to the current system of government. A mission statement is what a company sets itself as its intended goal.

    EXAMPLE: “I HAVE A DREAM” BY MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.38

    I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

    Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

    But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so, we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

    In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

    We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

    It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

    But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again, and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

    We cannot walk alone.

    And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

    We cannot turn back.

    There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

    I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

    Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends

    And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today!

    I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

    I have a dream today!

    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

    This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

    With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

    And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

    My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

    And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

    And so, let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

    Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

    Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

    Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

    But not only that:

    Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

    And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

    Free at last! Free at last!

    Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

    Assignments and Questions to Consider

    Write up your very own manifesto. At the minimum, include the following criteria:

    • Some sort of structure (intro, body, conclusion)
    • Focus/thesis
    • Three precepts with details
    • Passionate/persuasive language

    37 Found at wikiHow; wikihow uses the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that is devoted to expanding creative work for others to build upon and legally share. Under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Creative Commons License, wikiHow's text content is free to modify, republish and share.

    38 For audio of this speech, go to this web site: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm


    This page titled 3.8: Manifestos is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe, Ronda Marman, & Dana Anderson (North Dakota University System) .

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