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Episode 133
Experts Speak English Podcast

Rule of Threes

A Super Simple Rhetorical Device


I use the Rule of Threes a lot, but I didn’t realize it was an actual rhetorical device until I joined Toastmasters. Let me show you how it’s done.


What happens at Toastmasters is after each speech that you make, we get personal feedback from an experienced toastmaster after each speech. You get the opportunity to try out different techniques and one of the very first pieces of feedback that I got – that was surprising to me – was that this “Rule of Threes” wasn’t just something that I just did, it was actually a rhetorical device.


So, by bundling things into threes, you have the opportunity to pick people up in your message. Three things to remember is actually pretty easy for all of us, even children. So, you can use this method with your kids, with your colleagues, with your partner – you can use it in just about any communication to have a bigger impact on people.


Traditional Examples

As a Catholic girl, I was brought up in the church to do the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We were also taught about – how many kings? That’s right! There are three kings. How many days are there between Jesus being crucified and coming back to life? That’s right! Three days.

Very often you will hear this being used. If you think about fairy tales, you have the

“Three Little Pigs”,

“The Three Musketeers”,

and the

Three Blind Mice”.

Fairy tales, myths and stories love to use the Rule of Threes because it’s easy to remember.

At university, I was bombarded constantly as a business graduate about vision, strategy, tactics, and when I was at Reuters as an equity analyst, it was all about the financial data, so, I was constantly looking at income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements.

The Rule of Three is used in all walks of life, especially advertising.


Onboarding Instructions

It’s something that you can use too, you don’t have to be super clever to come up with a list of three things!

If you have an apprentice or a newbie working with you and you’re training them up, then it’s helpful to package things into groups of three. If you give them five things to do or a process with five steps, the chances are they’ll come up to you after the third thing and say,

“What were the other two things I had to do?”.

So, think in threes and make it easier for people to relate to what you’re telling them and to remember what you’ve said because using the Rule of Threes is very effective in terms of being memorable, of being entertaining.

Third Time Lucky

And then, of course, there’s a saying that says “third time lucky”. And then, of course, there’s the Latin saying, isn’t there? “Omne trium perfectum”, which literally means everything that comes in threes is perfect.

The ancient Romans really loved the Rule of Three, and you too can enhance the quality and the memorability of the discussions that you’re having at work. You can show up as the expert.

You can make a better impact on people if you’re using the Rule of Threes.


Get 10% off any coaching

If you email me your elevator pitch in English taking advantage of the “Rule of Threes” I’ll send you back a 10% coupon. Offer closes on 28th August at 20.00.

Coco's Communication Challenge >>>

So, I want you this week to use the Rule of Threes as often as you can.

That is Coco’s communication challenge for this week: To use the Rule of Threes to be more persuasive, to use this rhetorical device, whether it’s talking to

your family,

your colleagues,

your clients,

your stakeholders

Trying to compartmentalize your message into three things for them. And you can summarize the three points at the beginning and then list them one at a time.

Note how I could improve that with …

  • colleagues and clients
  • family and friends
  • stakeholders and supervisors




I told you I was going to talk about

the benefits,

the characteristics and

the impact.

So, the benefits are: It’s brief, right? In the world of business, we have to keep things tight. We have to keep on time. That’s why I like Toastmasters, by the way.

There’s a rhythm and creativity around using the Rule of Threes. Plan your message with these three things in mind.

Plus it is much more memorable


When you are using the Rule of Three, I want you not just to name the three things, but own your Rule of Threes.

Use pace to draw people into your message.

Have that presence, look at people straight in the eye and use power.

When you finish what you want to say, give them some thinking time to take it in and really see how that will affect them.

Pick a Letter Threesome

And of course, if you are using the same letter or the same word, it has more impact. Let me give you an example, so you can use the same words again and again – repetition is really powerful:

“See, no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”;
“I came. I saw. I conquered”.

That’s right! Roman Emperor Julius Caesar said just that a long time ago, way before there was the Rule of Threes in any textbook.

Because you’re repeating the word, it has even more power. And this is magnified too if you use the same letter to start your list, so,

creativity, compassion and calm, for example, could be your List of Threes, all beginning with C.

But it shouldn’t just be a list. If you throw some communication dynamite into it, you can create a really strong message around your Rule of Threes.

Pick a letter, any letter …

And in terms of impact, having the same letter creates a rhythm, the same letter each time or the same word each time – it has a bigger impact:

“Make it repetitive,
make it relatable,
make it remarkable”.

You see? Three R’s.


"See, no evil,
hear no evil,
speak no evil”

Image by Alexa, Pixabay

“I came.
I saw.
I conquered”.

Sorry this event is over but First Berlin Toastmasters would welcome you any time!

If you would like to see how the Rule of Threes is used in practice, and you would love to see how it’s used in fairytales, for example, if you would like to see how my fellow Toastmasters?

Well, at First Berlin are using the Rule of Threes, then I can heartily recommend you to come to this evening’s event in Berlin.

We are meeting at Märchenbrunnen Berlin, Volkspark Friedrichshain, because the topic of the evening is: fairy tales!

No doubt you will hear those being used this evening and after each speech we have the feedback so you can learn from the feedback and then there will be some table topics. The topic will be, of course, fairy tales, and you can take part and you can see how it feels to be put on the spot and to speak in English. And


 Speaking ‘off the cuff’ is all about effective, powerful communication. It can be true, you can reflect the question, or, if you’re not feeling very brave, you don’t have to say anything at all. But so far, as long as I’ve been doing Toastmasters, I’ve never experienced a guest that hasn’t felt inspired to take part in the table topics after all, no matter what they thought at the beginning of the evening.


Feel free to come and join us! We’re a very friendly, outgoing, helpful, supportive and international group of individuals.

Do you see that was five!!! 🙁 – that wasn’t as effective, was it, you see?

Let me try again: Why not join us this evening with an

fun and

group of individuals. Plus you will find out exactly what you can do to become a better speaker, a better communicator, and a better listener, as well.

We have clubs all over the world, many of us meet online, so if you want to find a club near you just go to or just ask me to help you, no problem.

You’ll wish you had joined earlier, if you need an international, sociable and affordable confidence boost – this is it!

All that remains for me to say..

So, be the very best communicator that you can be and remember, there are three calls to action for this podcast. The first is:

1) To practice using the Rule of Three at work and at home;

2) To visit a local Toastmasters meeting and finally, I’d like you

3) To sign up to my newsletter because that has lots of wonderful communication gems.

Take care now, it’s Corinne Wilhelm from Experts Speak English from English Speaking Experts.

Have a fabulous week!