E Shape Deep Dive


This is the simplest manifesto shape to identify. Its distinct form is marked entirely by parallel structure. For many manifestos, this means repeating the same word or words at the beginning of every sentence. Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways to do this. You can start with a phrase, such as “The truth is.” You can use a preposition, such as “For” or “Because.” You can start with a verb, such as “Thanks.” And many more.
This parallel structure is how the E-Shape got its name. I think of the parallel bars of the E as a symbol for the repetition at the beginning of each word.
I used to think that strict parallel structure was the only type of E-Shape manifesto, but the more I’ve studied them, the more I’ve come to realize that there are two more types of E-Shapes that use parallel structure. They do have repetition; it’s just not the same word.
The first of these two types is list manifestos. These are the ones that have numbers at the beginning of each bullet point. For some reason, this is very popular from manifestos by designers. These are the manifestos that are the ten rules for something or the eight principles of whatever. These can be very effective. Every so often, you see Nike’s “Principles” manifesto make the rounds. Each line starts with different stuff, and the numbers give it the parallel structure that hold it all together.
The second type is what I think of as rants. These aren’t all angry, but the idea of ranting always comes to mind. These are the manifestos that start every sentence with a command. Do this, do that, don’t do this, do this other thing, do this, too. A very trendy device is for these manifestos to have swear words in every sentence. I consider these E-Shape manifestos as well because, like the list manifestos, the parallel structure is what holds them together. They don’t all start the same, but they do rely on that repeated verb at the beginning of each sentence to keep the ideas from flying off the page.
We’re going to focus on the traditional type of E-Shape manifestos with the repeated words. I think this is most helpful for instructive purposes, as well as providing a great framework for getting a lot of ideas down about your idea or project.

How it works

Step 1 — Parallel Examples: Show breadth, depth and contrast.

This manifesto has a lot of potential, but it also has a lot of risk. For me, this is the hardest manifestos shape to write. There is no place to hide in these manifestos. You either have great examples of you don’t. You’re either interesting or you’re not. Every line starts the same, and your audience is always on the edge of being bored. Within two lines, your audience can tell the structure and they know what’s coming. The only way to keep them interested is to make every single line interesting. And I do mean every line. You need people excited to hear or read the next one. Loosen that grip even a little bit, and you’ve lost them.
For kings
For magicians
For the committed
For castaways
For the rockers
For those that go
For those who ride the train
For the well mannered
For those who suffer
This is an expert from Coca-Cola’s “For everyone” manifesto. There are actually a lot of different versions of this script, and the gimmick for the spot is that each point is punctuated by a symbolic representation made from the bottle or packaging.
But even without that visual connection, the script demonstrates the point of variety very well. Take a look at how different each of those lines are. Kings, magicians, the committed, and castaways. The distance between each of those is huge, and that’s what makes each one rewarding. We’re curious what’s going to come next.
When writing these yourself, focus on creating that distance between things. You can have some phrasing that plays on the line or lines before it, as well as groups of examples that work together. But the best versions of these scripts are the ones that take massive leaps while keeping everything under the same concept.

Step 2 — Parallel Summary: Demonstrate why the rest matters.

This might seem like a strange thing to pull out and talk about because the last sentence is almost always in the same parallel structure as the rest of the manifesto. However, the last sentence always have a job to do. You need to leave the audience with the final message that encapsulates everything that came before. Here’s one from Coca-Cola’s:
For everyone.
Simple, I know. But it’s important. The end of “The Truth Is” by the New York Time is just as simple, and just as powerful. You don’t need to go into a lot of detail because all of your examples have already done that. Instead, just leave us with the final wrap-up of what it all adds up to.
This can be done without breaking the parallel structure, and in fact it should be done that way. Take this example from Chivas Regal. After a huge list of examples that show the value the father has in the life of a son, the piece ends with this:
Because if you don't deserve Chivas Regal, who does?
This does two important things. First, it answers the question of why all this has happened. This is more than just a gift for Father’s Day. This gift also demonstrates that his contributions to the son’s life elevate him above anyone else the son can imagine. This is a tribute, a celebration, and a honor all in one. Every example that we’ve read up until this point is proof of why.
But this does something else as well. I believe this also elevates Chivas Regal. The phrase “if you don’t deserve” is one that we use before something of exceptional quality. We often use it in front of things like love, respect, success, and wealth. If nothing else, it demonstrates that Chivas Regal itself is something that one deserves, which already makes it special.
Two great takeaways from a line that matches the structure of all the others. The success of that line is one of the reasons why I return to this piece over and over for inspiration.

Cheat Sheet

If you want to write an E-shape, here is your structure. Remember, the best versions of this continue the single parallel structure to the end. If you want to have a section at the end where you break from the structure, such as Nike’s “You were Born a Daughter,” you may want to write a J-Shape manifesto instead.
Parallel Examples: To show breadth, depth and contrast.
Parallel Summary: To demonstrate why the rest matters.

Example: “Thanks for Everything, Junior”

Parallel Examples

Thanks for the swing. Thanks for the arm. Thanks for the glove, forever golden. Thanks for the slide. Thanks for the smile. The grin. The laugh. Thanks for being the kid. And for making us all feel like one. Thanks for the swagger. Thanks for making backwards hats fashion-forward. Thanks for making 24 the most sought-after number in little league. Thanks for making every at-bat must-see TV. Thanks for showing us that mortals can be Spiderman. Thanks for electrifying the dome. Thanks for helping us build our own field of dreams. Thanks for putting Mariners baseball on the map. Thanks for 630. And thanks for 95. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the stories we can tell our grandchildren.
This is a piece created by the Seattle Mariners in honor of Ken Griffey Jr.’s acceptance into the Hall of Fame. On the surface, it’s a simple manifesto, but there are many elements here that are worth a special look.
First, this shows one of the most effective uses of the E-Shape manifesto: talking to a specific audience. I love the way it doesn’t explain all the facts. It’s talking to diehard Seattle Mariners fans who grew up in the city, followed his career, and felt the electricity of his presence on the team for years.
By not over-explaining everything, it creates a feeling of specialness for people who read it. Seattle fans can picture Griffey’s swing. They know what the dome is. They know the number 630 is a stat, and 95 is a year. This feeling of specialness is also what keeps the reader’s attention throughout this piece. They want to read the next thing in anticipation that it’s going to be a delightful memory or association.
This piece also does a good job of having a lot of distance between each point. There are some groups of lines that work together, but many of them make big jumps to distinctly different parts of Griffey’s legacy. That along would be enough to be interesting.

Parallel Summary

Thanks for everything, Junior.
This is the wrap up for everything. It’s the first time his name is used in the piece. But more importantly, it’s not trying to explain everything. This does not say, “Today, we’re celebrating Ken Griffey Jr. for his entrance into the Hall of Fame, an inevitable honor that nevertheless fills every Mariner fan with renewed pride.” Instead, the manifesto keeps the parallel structure and uses this as a simple summation of everything before it.
The manifesto could have started with this line. In fact, that’s true of all E-Shape manifestos because the line at the end would fit just as well at the beginning as at the the end. Think of the “The Truth Is” manifesto from The New York Times. The first line could technically be, “The truth is more important now than ever.” But in both cases, putting the line at the end gives it much more power. That power comes from all the examples that were before it. It’s precisely because of the context delivered through examples that makes an otherwise simple POV significant.
You may not know your end line when you start writing. In my experience, that’s okay. You’ll likely stumble on a good end lines while you’re coming up with ideas. Look for the ones that are the most simple and clear. They don’t have to be powerful by themselves, but they do need to be speak for the rest of the example in an elevated or summarizing way. When in doubt, just state your concept as simply as possible in the structure of the manifesto. It might not be a great end line, but it will be the right place to start as you figure it out.


Like many manifestos, the key to the E-Shape is depth of knowledge. Like the J-Shape, E-shape manifestos require an insider knowledge of the subject. You need to know the language intrinsically. It needs to breath so perfectly with authenticity that experts, locals, or diehards feel it speaks for them—not to them. Take a look at all the facts in the Mariner’s tribute to Griffey.
  • One of Griffey’s trademarks is his smooth swing.
  • He was one of the most dominant outfielders in the game.
  • He won the golden glove award 10 times.
  • He had a game-winning slide in the ALDS against the Yankees.
  • His personality radiated with smiles and laughter.
  • His nickname was The Kid.
  • He was one of the few players who wore his hat backwards.
  • His number was 24, and local kids wanted that number.
  • He was known for stealing home runs by climbing the back wall.
  • He played most of his career in the Kingdome before it was demolished.
  • His success led to the creation of the Mariner’s new stadium.
  • His game helped draw national attention to the team.
  • He had 630 home runs.
  • His talent helped the Mariners clinch the division title in 1995.
  • His legacy continues to live on today.
This might seem daunting, and it should. But it’s possible to do this through research. Unless you’re already part of the community, do everything you can to experience it first hand. Watch videos of fans talking, consume every fact you can find, find the shitty documentaries made by local news stations, read first-person memoirs about that time. Don’t rely on a single fact sheet made by somebody else. Go as deep as you can for as long as you can. If it’s a few weeks, make time every day to consume. If it’s a weekend, fill it with everything you can.
I know, it probably feels like overkill. If you can write one of these manifestos without doing all that research, I commend you. If not, hunker down and have fun with it. The place to stop is when you stop learning things. You’ll notice that after a while, you’ll start reading facts or ideas you already know. Once you get this sort of internalized truth about the subject, that’s when you’ll have the most natural ability to say just the stuff that’s interesting and resonate.
One final thing to mention. Whenever possible, show your manifesto to someone who’s part of the community or an expert in the topic to get their thoughts. It doesn’t have to be an official research capacity. You just want to know the answer to one question. “Does any of this seem off to you?” In my experience, it doesn’t help to ask them what they would include instead. They might provide that anyway—and if they do, thank them profusely for it—but it’s more important to know what’s not working. If you’ve done enough research, it’s often easy to see how to course correct and either change it or fill it with something else.