The Number 3 – A Speechwriter & A Copywriters’ Best Friend

What is it about the number 3?


Speech writing and The Rule of Three

The number 3 exerts amazing influence on our lives.

Artists and photographers live by the rule of thirds to compose a painting or a picture.

Great orators and writers have long known that the rule of three gives their speeches and plays more impact, more humour, more memorability.

  • “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” William Shakespeare from Julius Caesar.
  • “Government, of the people, by the people, for the people“ The Gettysburg Address Abraham Lincoln
  • “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”– Benjamin Disraeli
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – movie
  • Sex, Lies and Videotape – movie
  • Slip, Slop, Slap – Cancer Council Australia skin cancer campaign.

Then there’s

  • The Three Little Pigs
  • The Three Blind Mice
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • the Three Wise Men
  • and the Three Stooges 

But why is the sequence of three so powerful? It seems it’s about the way we humans process information. We have become proficient at pattern recognition by necessity, and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern.

Andrew Diugan in his Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills blog says the rule of three is a powerful speech writing technique that you should learn, practice and master.

Falling into the “Rule of Three” is the whimsical, yet true saying about making a  speech or a presentation “tell them what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”

The Rule is equally relevant when it comes to humour.  You’ve all heard the line “three guys walk into a bar”etc or from a TV comedy, a  character might say to a bald person “Can I get you anything? Cup of coffee? Doughnut? Toupee?” 

So there it, is if you want to make an impression, hold your audiences’ attention and leave them wanting more – do it in threes.

The Rule Of 3 is just as important in commercial video making, both picture composition  and written content.

When framing your subject move the camera so that the principal subject elements fall along one of the third lines, preferably at a point where those lines intersect. If you can’t re-position  the camera to a good spot, try to move the subject (not easy of you’re shooting a landscape). A case in point would be the placement of the horizon line in an outdoor shot. Don’t center the horizon on your screen. Place the horizon on either the top or bottom third line. 


The Rule of 3 permeates many aspects of our lives.  Three is the magic number that makes life more interesting. How has it impacted your life?

If you have examples of how the rule of three works for you let us know.