Typewriter with Commanist Party greeting

A specter is haunting all of language—the specter of formality, of elitism, of Commanism. All the powers of expediency and anti-intellectualism have entered into an unholy alliance to exorcise this specter: algorithm and prescription, informality and laziness, and youthful disregard and anti-intellectual rot.

It is high time that Commanists should openly—in the face of the whole world—publish their views, their aims, and their tendencies, and meet the moment with a manifesto of the party itself. It is high time we take back the punctuation mark branded as elitist—the Oxford comma—and reclaim it as essential to the mutual understanding between people. It is the time for us, the pro-literates, to band together in support of the clarifying, unifying, equalizing serial comma—the comma of the people.

The evolution of the English language is itself far from linear. From the incursion of Germanic with the Battle of Hastings in 1066 to the parallel growth of English outside of the British Isles, this twisting, complex, quirky language stretches this way and that, absorbing and reusing pieces of its surroundings like an amoeba. It has changed and changed again: But no matter the words adopted, transformed, or transfigured, the rules of punctuation, syntax, and grammar  have guided our language to marshal the meaning of our words.

To this end, Commanists of various nationalities have assembled in Fountain Square and sketched the following manifesto, so we’re all on the same page.

Clarity, Equality, Unity

The history of all hitherto existing language is the history of human creation. Citizen and politician, student and professor, writer and reader, we are all imbued with the uniquely human capacity of constructing in our minds a limitless number of meaningful expressions. These expressions are the instruments of thought, the means of formulating thoughts in our minds, and a way of externalizing our thought to others. Language limits both our capacity to share our thoughts and imbues us with the freedom to think and express things that have never before been uttered in the history of our world. It is infinite and limited, like humanity itself.

Our thoughts are only as good as the language we use to express them.

Communication is an exchange. And like any friendly transaction, parties can exchange only within an agreed-upon set of rules. To this end, language requires punctuation. Commas, question marks, periods: These are necessary foundations for building worlds, platforms, and movements. Without them, our words lose meaning in contextless chaos.

Stories require a beginning and an end. The chosen ending changes the meaning with a change of a punctuation mark. Without punctuation, our descriptions are without precision. Our questions go unanswered. Interjections want emphasis. The parts comprising lists lack equal standing. We aren’t held accountable to our declarations.

To that end, we must declare this central tenet of Commanism: Punctuation is the common foundation on which we build worlds with our words. Commas keep our statements separated, thoughts untwisted, and expressions straight. Commas—just to be clear—are important.

The People’s Comma

Clarity, after all, is the point. While it’s been stereotyped as elitist nonsense, the serial comma is straightforward in its purpose: It separates items in a series and prevents ambiguity. Things that should be equally considered are given equal credence. And what more egalitarian purpose is there than considering all items in a group equally?

The serial comma, painted by our elitist Comma Sense Party foes as the “Oxford comma,” is the symbol of our cause. Let it heretofore be known as “the People’s Comma.”

Just to be Clear

Truth is only as good as the language we use to express it. It is a creative act that spins worlds between people. Furthermore, we, the members of the Commanist Party, believe that using punctuation is an act of care. Does insisting that thoughts are held to a standard mean we are wedded to a stodgy form of expression? No. Structure frees us to explore all the worlds we can imagine together. Let the language grow and flower as it will—just be clear, be clear, to whomever you’re trying to reach. Poorly constructed writing will not, will never, advance the human race. We should decry anti-intellectualism and the abuse of language wherever we see it. Those who neglect to use punctuation out of laziness are careless with the spark that can set nations alight.

Language is the right of the people. Refusal to use the People’s Comma—or any other punctuation—is an assault on what makes us uniquely, beautifully human. We cannot, should not, will not stand for it any longer. Punctuation—just to be clear—is important.

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