The Rule Of Three
The Rule of Three is a powerful principle rooted in the art of effective communication. It suggests that information presented in groups of three is more memorable, engaging, and persuasive. The rule of three is a principle that has been used in communication for centuries, and it suggests that things that come in threes are inherently more satisfying, effective, and memorable than other numbers. This principle is often used in writing, public speaking, advertising, and other forms of communication to increase impact and make a lasting impression on the audience.
The rule of three is an ancient principle, which dates back to ancient Rome, where it was known as omne trium perfectum, which translates to everything that comes in threes is perfect. It was also popular in Latin rhetoric and was used to structure speeches and writing. The rule of three gained widespread popularity in the 20th century, thanks to its use in advertising, where it was used to create memorable and persuasive taglines.
The Rule of Three is deeply ingrained in human cognition and perception. Cognitive psychologists suggest that the human brain has a natural tendency to process information in patterns of three. This pattern creates a sense of completeness, simplicity, and memorability, making it easier for individuals to understand and retain information. By leveraging this innate cognitive preference, communicators can effectively engage and persuade their audience.
Research suggests that people tend to grasp information more easily when it is organized in groups of three. Furthermore, it research also shows that we can recall just three to four items from our short-term memory. Our brains naturally seek patterns and rhythms, and the number three creates a satisfying and memorable structure. Scientifically speaking, three is the minimum number of items you need to create a pattern. Understanding the psychology behind the Rule of Three can help communicators leverage this principle to enhance their message’s impact and resonance.
The Rule of Three has a rich historical and cultural significance across different disciplines. It has been utilized in rhetoric and storytelling since ancient times. From famous speeches like Abraham Lincoln’s of the people, by the people, for the people to memorable quotes, such as veni, vidi, vici attributed to Julius Caesar, the Rule of Three has been employed to deliver impactful messages that resonate with audiences. The use of threes can also be seen in fairy tales, jokes, and marketing slogans, reflecting its universal appeal and effectiveness.
In politics, Winston Churchill’s blood, sweat, and tears speech moved the British to take arms during the second world war.
Christianity has the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Plays and films have a three-act structure — the beginning, middle, and the end.
The national motto of France goes: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (liberty, equality, and fraternity).
The US Declaration of Independence proudly proclaims: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics – Benjamin Disraeli
In the film industry, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Duty – Honor – Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be – General Douglas MacArthur
To re-iterate, the Rule Of Three storytelling principle that suggests people better understand concepts, situations, and ideas in groups of three. Over time, the rule has been confirmed by anthropological experts as an archetypal principle that works on three levels: sentences, situations, and stories.
A hendiatris is a figure of speech where three successive words are used to express a central idea. Here, three words express the same idea.
Veni, vidi, vici – Julius Caesar
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – French motto
Citius, Altius, Fortius – Olympic motto
A tricolon is a series of three parallel elements (words or phrases). In a strict tricolon, the elements have the same number of words or syllables: veni, vedi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). However, this condition is often put aside.
Examples of tricola include:
Be sincere, be brief, be seated. [Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt]
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation – not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. – Barack Obama, Keynote speech to Democratic National Convention, July 2004
Use a three-part structure to organize your communication. In the beginning, set things up. Then build anticipation, and finish with the punchline, resolution, or plot twist. The easiest way to do this is by having three characters experience the same situation in slightly different ways.
When we refer to three-act structure, we are referring to the substance of the story. The three parts (or acts) are easy:
- Act 1: The beginning
- Act 2: The middle
- Act 3: The end
Think of each of these elements of structure as the levels of a home. They each make up an important part of the home (story) but there has to be a way to move from one level to the next. In the same sense, there have to be turning points in the plot that keep the story moving, and keep the characters walking up stairs to the next level. These turning points are what maintain a flow in the story, and keep your characters moving through the levels with the right intensity and direction.
When delivering speeches or presentations, incorporating the Rule of Three can significantly enhance the impact and effectiveness of the message. It helps structure the content, create a rhythm, and engage the audience’s attention. By organizing ideas into three main points, using triads, or utilizing the setup, development, and payoff structure, speakers can deliver memorable and persuasive speeches.
Writers and storytellers also employ the Rule of Three to captivate readers and engage them in narratives. Three-part story arcs, three-character archetypes, or three key plot events create a sense of balance, tension, and resolution. The Rule of Three is also used to add emphasis and impact through the use of three adjectives, phrases, or examples. By strategically incorporating the Rule of Three, writers can create compelling narratives that resonate with their audience.
Marketing And Advertising
In the realm of marketing and advertising, the Rule of Three plays a significant role in crafting persuasive messages. Advertisers leverage this principle to create memorable slogans, taglines, and catchphrases that stick in the minds of consumers. By
presenting three key benefits, features, or reasons to choose a product or service, marketers can effectively communicate their value proposition and drive consumer engagement.
One notable advertising example that effectively utilizes the Rule of Three is the famous McDonald’s slogan: I’m lovin’ it. This simple and memorable tagline encapsulates the essence of McDonald’s brand and resonates with consumers worldwide.
The slogan follows the Rule of Three by presenting a concise, three-part statement. It conveys the message that McDonald’s food brings joy and satisfaction, capturing the emotions and experiences associated with the brand. The three words, I’m lovin’ it, are easy to remember and evoke positive associations with McDonald’s products.
The slogan’s success lies in its simplicity and ability to communicate McDonald’s brand promise succinctly. By condensing the message into three words, it grabs attention, creates a rhythm, and reinforces the idea of enjoying McDonald’s food. The Rule of Three enhances the memorability and impact of the slogan, making it instantly recognizable and synonymous with the McDonald’s brand.
Moreover, the slogan’s versatility allows it to be adapted across different advertising mediums and cultural contexts. It has been used in television commercials, radio spots, print advertisements, and even incorporated into McDonald’s iconic jingle. The Rule of Three strengthens the slogan’s effectiveness by providing a consistent and cohesive message, ensuring a strong brand presence across diverse advertising platforms.
The Rule of Three also extends to visual design, where it can be employed to create aesthetically pleasing and balanced compositions. Designers use the rule of thirds to divide visual elements into three equal parts, guiding the placement of focal points, typography, and imagery. This approach ensures visual harmony and engages viewers’ attention.
The Rule of Three has a long history in rhetoric and storytelling. From ancient times to contemporary speeches, orators have used triads to convey persuasive arguments and create memorable phrases. The three-part structure helps to build anticipation, reinforce key points, and engage the audience emotionally. Examples from famous speeches, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, showcase the power of the Rule of Three in capturing attention and leaving a lasting impression.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people. – Abraham Lincoln
In his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln utilized the Rule of Three to convey a powerful and memorable message. By repeating the phrase of the people, by the people, for the people, he emphasized the democratic ideals of the government and reinforced the notion that the government should serve the people. This triadic structure not only created a rhythmic and persuasive effect but also made the message more accessible and memorable to the audience. The Rule of Three in this example encapsulates the essence of democracy and resonates with listeners even long after the speech was delivered.
The Rule of Three is a powerful tool in communication, providing a framework for crafting engaging, memorable, and persuasive messages. By understanding the psychological impact of the Rule of Three and its historical and cultural significance, we can leverage its principles in speeches, writing, marketing, and visual design. Embracing the power of threes enables communicators to captivate their audience, enhance message recall, and deliver impactful communication that resonates long after it is shared.
Presentations And Public Speaking
Public speakers and presenters can harness the power of the Rule of Three to engage their audience and deliver impactful messages. By structuring their content around three main points, speakers provide a clear framework that helps listeners follow the presentation and remember key takeaways. Additionally, the Rule of Three can be applied to storytelling, humor, and visual aids, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the presentation.
Today, I want to talk to you about the three keys to success: passion, perseverance, and purpose. Passion fuels our drive and ignites our enthusiasm for what we do. It’s that inner fire that keeps us going even when faced with challenges. Perseverance is the unwavering commitment to our goals, the determination to push through obstacles and setbacks. And finally, purpose gives our efforts meaning and direction, aligning our actions with our core values and long-term vision. When we combine passion, perseverance, and purpose, we unlock the door to true success and fulfillment in both our personal and professional lives.
In this example, the speaker uses the Rule of Three to present three distinct ideas: passion, perseverance, and purpose. By organizing the information in a triadic structure, the speaker provides a clear and memorable framework for the audience to follow. The use of the Rule of Three helps to emphasize the importance of each key element and allows the audience to easily grasp and retain the information.