“I Can’t Stand to Be Asked the Same Question Three Times” ~ Mustafa
You can use the Rule of Three not just to improve your speech writing, and report writing, but in pretty much every aspect of your life.
For your amusement and edification, please find below examples of the Rule of Three used in comedy, storytelling, and the movies.
The Rule of Three is used to great effect in comedy because it fits the classic joke structure of set-up, anticipation and punchline. A “triple” is a joke consisting of three statements in which the first two statements follow the same pattern, and the third statement provides an unexpected twist. The amusement results from the mismatch between what we expected and what we get.
Here are three examples:
- French joke: “I know three French words: Bonjour, merci, and surrender.”;
- Jon Stewart from The Daily Show: “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”; and
- Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
The Rule of Three is commonly used in storytelling, so much so that it is unusual to find a fairy tale that does not incorporate the Rule of Three: Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Here are 3 more examples:
- Charles Dickens´ A Christmas Carol: Scrooge receives a visit from three spirits: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come;
- Rumpelstiltskin: An impish creature spins gold from straw three times and gives the queen three days to guess his name; and
- Aladdin: The genie of the lamp grants three wishes to an impoverished young street dweller.
You also see the Rule of Three used in the movies. The three act structure is widely used in screenwriting because it is a proven formula. Stephen J. Cannell, an American writer, producer and director, is quoted as having said that, “Every great movie, book or play that has stood the test of time has a solid Three-Act structure.”
The Rule of Three has also been used to create memorable movie titles:
- Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989);
- Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998); and
- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966).