“The Rule of Three” Makes Magic – Do You Cast This Spell On Your Audiences?

“The Rule of Three” is a writing and speaking principle suggesting that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, and effective than other numbers.

The trio format holds a special appeal to audiences. The use of three elements offers brevity, rhythm, and a concise pattern that sticks in your audiences’ minds. with the smallest amount of information needed to create a pattern.

It makes an author or speaker appear knowledgeable while remaining both accessible and catchy.

Slogans, film titles, jokes, speaking techniques, and writing have been structured in threes, a tradition that grew out of oral storytelling.

For example, the classic “The Three Little Pigs,” “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and The Three Musketeers. Similarly, adjectives are often grouped in threes to emphasize an idea.

The Latin phrase “Omne trium perfectum” (Everything that comes in threes is perfect, or every set of three is complete.) conveys the same idea as “The Rule of Three.”

While many speakers are familiar with the importance of the “Rule of Three,” its origins often remain unknown to them. We use this ancient mathematical law of proportion in ways we don’t even think about.

Abraham Lincoln learned it in his one-room schoolhouse. Even Aristotle, in his Art of Rhetoric, referred to “three types of speeches” and “three forms of proof.”

Lewis Carroll, in addition to writing the Alice in Wonderland stories, was a mathematician at Oxford who referred to “The Rule of Three” more than once in his writings. In his “Mad Gardener’s Song” he writes:

He thought he saw a Garden-door

That opened with a key:

He looked again and found it was

A Double Rule of Three:

“And all its mystery,” he said,

“Is clear as day to me.”

Irrespective of its mathematical overtones, the number three is truly magical. Speech coaches like me insist that people can most easily remember something if it is said three different times. Shakespeare used it in “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Thomas Jefferson used it in “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

U.S. Marine Corps instructors teach that a Marine should limit his or her attention to three tasks or goals. Comedians often use the rule of three effectively. Their first comment names the topic, the second sets a pattern, and the third unexpectedly switches the pattern, which is funny.

What does this mean for you? By distilling your message into no more than three significant points and reinforcing them in different ways throughout your presentation, you can maximize its impact. Let the timeless magic of “The Rule of Three” elevate your writing, storytelling, and presentations to new heights.

In addition to the classic examples, there are numerous recent instances where “The Rule of Three” has proven its effectiveness in modern writing, movies, and books. Here are three noteworthy examples:

“The Hunger Games” Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This popular dystopian series follows the story of Katniss Everdeen as she becomes a symbol of rebellion against an oppressive government. The narrative is structured around a trio of books, each representing a different phase of Katniss’s journey – “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire,” and “Mockingjay.” This three-book structure allows for a compelling progression of events and character development.

“The Dark Knight” Trilogy by Christopher Nolan: Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are renowned for their dark and gritty portrayal of the iconic superhero. In this trilogy, the second installment, “The Dark Knight,” is particularly notable for its use of “The Rule of Three.” The film presents three central characters who embody different aspects of Batman’s moral dilemmas – Batman, the Joker, and Harvey Dent. This trio creates a powerful dynamic, exploring themes of order, chaos, and the line between heroism and villainy.

TED Talks: TED Talks have become a global platform for thought leaders, innovators, and experts to share their ideas and inspire audiences. Many of these compelling talks utilize the power of “The Rule of Three” to structure their messages effectively. Speakers often present their main ideas or arguments in sets of three, providing a clear framework for the audience to follow. By utilizing this technique, TED speakers engage and captivate their listeners, making their talks memorable and impactful.

So can you. Do you need help? Remember, you have a good friend who is a great speech coach.

Why not have a conversation with Patricia Fripp to discuss how you can gain a competitive advantage by improving your presentations? 

“Patricia, words cannot express the gratitude I have for your superb scripting and speech coaching for my important acceptance speech. Needless to say, everybody told me, ‘The speech was awesome!!!’ It was obvious the entire audience was blown away and greatly impacted. The enthusiasm came from those who knew me and those encountering me for the first time. To think, from our first call to a memorized speech in four days. Thank you for your talent, care, friendship, and support! It truly means the world!” ­­Kristopher Francisco

Patricia Fripp and Deliver Unforgettable Presentations

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