Exploring the Rule of Three in Writing

The rule of three in writing is one of the most common strategies used by bloggers, authors, and content creators, around the world. It’s a method specialists use to capture audience attention, engage their interest, and ensure they come back for more. 

Using the rule of three in writing is about giving your content a specific pattern. 

Virtually every piece of content in the world today follows a specific structure. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Writers begin a piece of content by introducing an idea, a problem, or a question. Next, they share information, tell a story, or convey the experiences of specific characters. Finally, they complete the piece with a satisfactory conclusion. 

Once you learn how to use the rule of three in writing, you can leverage it not just for your blog posts but also for your podcasts, videos, and anything else you produce. 

What Is The Rule Of Three? An Introduction 

There’s a Latin saying: Omne trium perfectum, which means perfection comes in groups of threes. For centuries, creators have adhered to this strategy when building their own unique pieces. Essays, public speeches, and plays all follow the same “rule of three”. 

The purpose of this writing practice is to adhere to the natural way human beings process information. We’re innately predisposed to look for patterns, and three is the smallest number of elements you need to create a pattern. A blog with just a beginning and a middle would seem incomplete. A play that jumped straight into the action without an introduction would be difficult to follow. 

The three-act structure in writing helps to ensure your content makes sense from a structural perspective, while also guiding your readers through the core parts of the narrative. 

Why is the Rule of Three Used in Writing?

The rule of three can be used in a multitude of different ways in the writing world. Not only does it help to structure a piece by giving it three acts or core components, but it can also assist with titles, sentences, and statements too. For instance, you may have noticed companies using specific three-word phrases in their advertisements. 

The latest iPad is a great example of this:

Rule of three example

Creators use the rule of three to appeal to the pattern-driven part of the human brain. They can also use repetition with the rule of three as a way to cement an idea within a customer’s mind. Some brands use different synonyms for the same word multiple times to convey a unique selling point.

The rule of three adds structure, flow, and organisation to your content. It pulls your readers into emotional moments, grabs their attention, and keeps them focused on what you’re trying to say. 

Examples of the Rule of Three in Writing 

As one of the oldest and established rules of writing, the rule of three appears in virtually every book and narrative you can think of. Let’s start with a modern example from our website. In this article about Permalinks, you’ll see three core components. 

Rule of three core components example
  • An introduction, and explanation of what a permalink is
  • An overview of the best permalink structures and how to make them SEO friendly
  • A conclusion wrapping up the post

Although the article has more than 3 paragraphs and headers, the core focus of the piece is divided into three different sections. 

Looking back at the history of literature and film, there are plenty of other great examples:

  • The Three Little Pigs: In this fable, we see three stories from different perspectives. The first pig builds a house of straw, the second is built from sticks and the third is built with bricks. In each section, we see how the situation plays out for each character. 
  • Ghost: In the globally popular movie Ghost, we’re introduced to the story of a loved one who dies. In the middle of the movie, the protagonist learns how to communicate with her lost partner, and overcomes her grief. At the end, she learns how to move on. 
  • The three wise men: In the bible story of the three wise men, the young baby Jesus is visited by 3 wise men. Each has their own gift to give the child, with its own specific meaning. The rule of 3 also appears frequently in the bible with the concept of the holy trinity: The father, the child, and the holy spirit. 

Ways to use the ‘Rule of Three’ to Create Engaging Content

The easiest way to use the rule of three in your own writing is to plan each piece of content with a distinctive structure. This means ensuring each blog or article has a clear beginning, middle and end. 

You don’t necessarily need to have three sections to the post, but the core focus of the content should follow this triad structure, so your customers know where you start your post, where you cover your key points, and where you conclude your writing. 

Whether you’re creating a product launch article, a screenplay or a blog, the same rule of three applies. You’ll start by setting the stage, use the middle of your content to share the bulk of your information, and use the end to tie everything together. 

Here are some interesting ways you can use the rule of three in writing:

  • Ideas, categories and evidence: With this technique, you’ll start with three primary ideas, then add evidence to support each concept. Categorising your ideas into three sections makes it easier to follow what you’re talking about in a longer piece, and gives your post a stronger structure. If you have more ideas than 3, this could mean that your topic is too broad. 
  • Use three adjectives: A good way to create stickier content is to use three adjectives to describe one topic. You can use this technique in your subject lines, headers and even throughout the body of the page’s content. For instance, you might teach readers how to craft creative, compelling and intriguing content in a blog post. 
  • Characters, situation and style: This is a common technique used in books for children. For instance, the book “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” introduces three different characters, all with their own experiences and styles. 

Using Tricolon, Hendiatris and Alliteration

Another way to use the rule of three is with lexical devices. Tricolon, alliteration and hendiatris are all fantastic tools for using the rule of three:

  • Tricolon: Compose a group of words, sentences, or phrases which parallel each other in structure. For instance: “We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground” (Lincoln’s Gettysburg address). 
  • Hendiatris: Use three words to express a single idea. For instance, a writer might describe a location as being “dark, cold and dingy”, rather than just “dark”. 
  • Alliteration: Often used in rhyming and poetry, alliteration involves using multiple words which begin with the same sound. “whisper words of wisdom”, for instance, is a prime example from the Beatles. 

Understanding the Rule of Three

The rule of three is a simple and effective tool for writers and content creators. It’s a powerful way to engage and captivate your audience, while delivering information in a convenient structure. Whether you’re trying to design an eye-catching title, or you want to build a compelling piece of blog content, using the rule of three could help you to achieve your goals. 

Article by

Nikola Baldikov

Nikola Baldikov is an SEO magician with a passion for helping companies succeed in their online efforts. He is a founder of Inbound Blogging, where he specializes in SaaS marketing, SEO, and outreach strategies. In addition to his work, he is an avid football fan and loves to dance.

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