The Rule of Three: Unlocking the Power of Persuasive Writing

Have you ever wondered why some messages are more memorable and persuasive than others? The secret to their success may lie in a simple yet powerful technique called the Rule of Three. This age-old writing principle can make your content more engaging, persuasive, and memorable by grouping ideas, words, or phrases in threes. Let’s explore the world of the Rule of Three and unlock the power of persuasive writing!

Key takeaways

  • The Rule of Three is a powerful tool for persuasive writing, with origins in ancient times and applications from marketing campaigns to comedy.

  • Use three-part lists, characters & headlines for balance & rhythm. Mix up sentence structures and lengths to avoid predictability or repetition.

  • Case studies show how successful brands use the Rule of Three to create memorable content that resonates with their audience.

The power of three: why it works


three words forming a powerful phrase

The Rule of Three works its magic by taking advantage of our brain’s affinity for pattern recognition. Since three is the smallest number required to create a pattern, our minds are drawn to it, making content more engaging and easier to remember. You can see the Rule of Three in action in various contexts, from fairy tales like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “Three Blind Mice” to advertising slogans like “Just Do It”.

Many memorable writings and speeches have used the Rule of Three, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech, which repeats the phrase “I have a dream” three times. Another example is the Latin phrase “Veni, vidi, vici,” which translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered” and was uttered by Julius Caesar after a swift victory. Implementing the Rule of Three in your writing helps craft content that not only stays in the reader’s mind but also persuades them more convincingly.

To incorporate the Rule of Three in your own work, try using three parallel elements, such as words, phrases, or ideas, to create a memorable and persuasive message. For example, in a sales pitch, you could highlight three key benefits of your product or service, or in a blog post, you could present your main points as three bullet points. Experimentation with the Rule of Three will help you understand its impact in making your writing more memorable and engaging.


The origins of the rule of three


holy, trinity, emblem The Holy Trinity as an example of the Rule of Three

The concept of the Rule of Three dates back to ancient philosophers like Aristotle, who recognised the human tendency to remember and process information in groups of three. His work on rhetoric emphasised the importance of ethos (character), pathos (emotion), and logos (reason) as the three crucial elements for persuasion, and he argued for three genres of public speech, further cementing the idea of the Rule of Three in persuasive writing.

Over time, the Rule of Three has remained prevalent, finding its place in various forms like the Holy Trinity in Christianity, which includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three wise men in the Bible, and even the English common law oath – “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. The widespread use of the Rule of Three in different contexts not only highlights its effectiveness but also demonstrates its deep-rooted connection to human cognition and communication.



Crafting memorable messages: The Rule of Three in action


Three examples of persuasive writing


Examples of the Rule of Three can be found in various contexts, and here are three examples: from marketing campaigns like McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” slogan to famous speeches like Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. These examples demonstrate the effectiveness of the Rule of Three in capturing the audience’s attention and making the message more memorable.

In literature, the Rule of Three is often used to create memorable stories and characters, such as the three spirits in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” including the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the third spirit. By using the Rule of Three in storytelling, writers can create a sense of completeness, balance, and resonance that sticks in the reader’s mind.

As you craft your messages, use the Rule of Three to emphasise key points, establish a rhythm, and enhance your writing style. For example, in a public service message, you could use three adjectives to describe a situation or three parallel elements to make a point.


Building your story: Applying the Rule of Three to structure


 illustration that visualizes the concept of the three key parts of a story: Beginning, Middle, and End, arranged in interconnected circles.


Applying the Rule of Three to story structure can help create a compelling narrative that resonates with readers. One common application is the three-act structure, which breaks a story into three parts: a beginning, middle, and end. This structure provides a balance between introducing the characters and setting, developing the plot, and resolving the conflict, making it easier for readers to follow and engage with the story.

Another way to use the Rule of Three in story structure is to create three characters with different perspectives, adding depth and complexity to the narrative. For example, in the Harry Potter series, the trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione offers three different viewpoints on the events that unfold, making the story more engaging and relatable to a wider range of readers. The presence of a third character in this trio adds an extra layer of intrigue and helps to maintain the rule of three.

Experiment with the Rule of Three in your own storytelling by incorporating three-part lists, three-word headlines, or three character perspectives. In doing so, you enhance the engagement, memorability, and impact of your stories for your readers.


Adding spice to your writing: Stylistic techniques

Incorporating the Rule of Three in your writing doesn’t have to be limited to structure and content. Stylistic techniques like tricolon, hendiatris, and alliteration can also be used to add the power of three to your writing.

Tricolon is a rhetorical device that uses three parallel elements in a sentence, such as “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Hendiatris, on the other hand, uses three words to express a single idea, like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

Alliteration, which involves the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words, can also be used to emphasise the Rule of Three and create a sense of rhythm and flair. For example, consider the famous advertising slogan “Snap, Crackle, Pop” for Rice Bubbles, which uses alliteration to create a catchy phrase.

Experimenting with these stylistic techniques in your own writing adds zest to your content.


The humorous side of three


Three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus

The Rule of Three isn’t limited to persuasive writing and storytelling – it’s also prevalent in comedy, where it’s used to create tension and release through a setup, anticipation, and punchline. By establishing a pattern with the first two elements and then breaking it with a surprising third element, comedians can create humour that is both unexpected and satisfying for the audience.

Famous comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Izzard have utilized the Rule of Three in their routines, creating memorable jokes that resonate with audiences and stand the test of time. The Rule of Three is also seen in the classic comedic trio of the Three Stooges, who used the Rule of Three to create hilarious and chaotic situations.

Using the Rule of Three in your comedic writing or performances aids in creating humour that surprises and delights, capturing audience attention. So, whether you’re writing a stand-up routine or crafting a humorous story, give the Rule of Three a try and see the difference it can make in your comedy.


Tips for implementing the Rule of Three in your writing


Begin by pinpointing the key ideas, points, or characters you want to underscore. Consider using three-part lists, three characters with different perspectives, or three-word headlines to create a sense of balance and rhythm in your content. This approach is based on the writing principle of the Rule of Three.

When employing the Rule of Three, maintain a balance between crafting engaging content and steering clear of predictability or repetition. Mixing up your sentence structures and lengths, experimenting with different rhetorical devices, and breaking away from the traditional three-part format can help keep your writing fresh and engaging.

Finally, remember that the Rule of Three is just one tool in your writer’s toolbox. While it can be a powerful technique for creating memorable and persuasive content, don’t be afraid to explore other writing strategies and techniques to add depth and variety to your work. Combining the Rule of Three with other writing strategies results in content that is genuinely engaging and memorable.


Case study: Successful brands using the Rule of Three


successful brands using the rule of three

Many successful brands have harnessed the power of the Rule of Three in their marketing campaigns, demonstrating its effectiveness in capturing audience attention and creating memorable messages. McDonald’s, for example, used the Rule of Three in their slogan “I’m lovin’ it,” which became an iconic part of their brand identity and resonated with customers worldwide.

Nike uses the Rule of Three in their marketing efforts. By focusing on emotional storytelling, celebrity endorsements, and innovative products, Nike has created a powerful brand image that connects with their target audience and drives sales.

These case studies showcase the effectiveness of the Rule of Three in marketing and brand communication, proving that it can be a valuable tool for businesses looking to create memorable and persuasive content. Incorporation of the Rule of Three in your marketing initiatives helps seize your audience’s attention and leaves a long-lasting impression on their perception of your brand.


Overcoming common challenges with the Rule of Three


Though the Rule of Three can effectively assist in creating engaging and unforgettable content, it’s important to stay aware of potential challenges. Striking the right balance between using the technique effectively and avoiding overuse can be difficult. Overusing the Rule of Three can lead to repetitive or predictable content, diminishing its impact on the reader.

To overcome these challenges, consider:

  • Varying the number of elements used in your writing

  • Exploring alternative patterns like the Rule of Four or the Rule of Five

  • Incorporating other rhetorical devices and techniques to add variety and depth to your content.



The Rule of Three is a powerful writing technique that can help you create engaging, persuasive, and memorable content by grouping ideas, words, or phrases in threes. From its origins in ancient philosophy to its application in storytelling, comedy, and marketing, the Rule of Three has proven to be an effective tool for capturing the attention of audiences and making a lasting impact.

By incorporating the Rule of Three in your own writing, you can harness its power to create content that resonates with readers and leaves a lasting impression. So why not give the Rule of Three a try in your next writing project and unlock the power of persuasive writing?


Frequently asked questions


What is the rule of 3 example?

The rule of three is a classic storytelling device where three examples are provided for a point to be made – such as in the fairy tales of the Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It can also be used with phrasing, such as “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” or “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

How do you explain the rule of three?

The Rule of Three is a persuasive technique that states that groups of three are more memorable, emotionally resonant, and persuasive than one or two. It is an effective way to communicate ideas, thoughts, events, characters, or sentences.

Why does the Rule of Three work?

The Rule of Three works because it satisfies our natural desire for patterns; the number three is the minimum required to create a recognisable pattern.

Can you provide examples of the Rule of Three in action?

The Rule of Three is exemplified in popular culture, from McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” to Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

How can I implement the Rule of Three in my writing?

To implement the Rule of Three in your writing, use three-part lists, create three characters with different perspectives, or craft three-word headlines to engage readers.


Scroll to Top