Rule of Three – List of Three

Max Atkinson has a great blog that you will want to visit if you are at all interested in speaking and communications (which is why I assume you are here!) He is the speaking expert from the UK behind “Claptrap”, which is an outstanding movie classic on the use of oratorical devices. Sounds boring, but the 30′ film dramatically takes a woman with moderate education and makes her into a “standing ovation” parliamentary speaker. With Max Atkinson’s help. (Unfortunately the film’s only available in PAL.)

His great post on Barack Obama’s advanced use of alliteration, list of three, and other oratorical devices is not to be missed. Atkinson is a master at coaching and analyzing the written speech. As he mentioned in his email to me, Obama “included 27 three-part lists at a rate of about one every 30 seconds!”

And keep in mind that the “list of three” is not just a device of rhetoric. As a proven principle in physics, it is also used in communicating for

  1. organizing ideas on the spot
  2. creating presentations, and
  3. putting together agendas of any kind

(and a lot of other uses beyond those three.)

It is one of the organizing principles for The Decker Grid, which we use in every program we teach and train. So if you use the Rule Of Three you will be

  1. More prepared,
  2. More persuasive, and
  3. More powerful!

6 comments on “Rule of Three – List of Three

  1. Don’t remember where this came from but, I was taught the rule of 1, 2, 3, 4:
    If you say one thing, people will remember it.
    If you say two things, people will remember that you contrasted and compared.
    If you say three thing, people will remember that you are complete.
    If you say four or more things, people are less likely to remember anything, and, if they do, will remember that you were cmoplex.

  2. I did not know I have been applying The Rule of 3 until now :-)
    I use a 3-stage build up a lot in presenting results of strategy consulting work:
    1) Situation
    2) Complication
    3) Resolution
    Not as a 3-second sound bite, but as the framework around which to build a presentation.