Wordy workshops: Three is the magic number

A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play.

Education, education, education.

He came; he saw; he conquered.

Do you recognise any of these linguistic triples? Who said them? And can you put them in date order? (Be careful now: it might reveal your age if you’re familiar with all three of them!)Now read aloud and listen to the cadence of the following shortened versions. Hopefully you can hear how they are far inferior to the triple:blue red and yellow stripe surface

A Mars a day helps you work and play.

Education, education.

He saw; he conquered.

These versions just don't compare.What is it about the rule of three that makes it so satisfying? Well, there’s the musicality of the rhythm, as you’ve already discovered. There’s also the fact that unlike just one or two items in a list, three sounds like a complete and comprehensive range. It’s impressive and thorough. But wait!  It’s a fine balance, because four, five or six items in a list would lose that impact, with individual items getting lost or forgotten amongst the verbal clutter.So, a list of three carries a bit of clout. This makes it a great technique when writing copy. A florist might advertise “bouquets, table arrangements and corsages” while a UK writer for hire (like - ahem - me) might hawk my “English degrees, SEO experience and great client satisfaction”.A little bit of trivia: although three is considered a lucky number these days, in the time of Shakespeare it was associated with the supernatural and the occult. That’s why ‘Macbeth’ features three witches, three assassins, and three prophecies. Old Bill Shakespeare wasn’t averse to a rule of three now and again, though; his “Friends, Romans, countrymen” line from 'Julius Caesar' has remained indelibly stamped on our cultural consciousness.The rule of three: it’s quick, it’s easy, and it works.

Becky KleanthousFreelance writer UK / writer for hire

Psssst… If you’re looking to hire a writer for website work, advertisement writing, magazine features or blog posts, drop me a message or check out my instant purchase page. If you want to create a strong brand voice, increase web traffic to your site, get more blog readers, create a killer sales page, or get on top search rankings and get higher up in Google, I’m your gal. Yeah, I broke the list of three rule. That’s how bolshy I am on the blog!