The Rule of Threes: From Writing to Work to Life

To give the most favorable impression of a person, product or store, present three positive things about those things, according to researchers from University of California Los Angeles and Georgetown University. But quit while you are ahead: positive impression declines once a fourth claim is introduced.
— Silverman, Rachel Emma. "Considering a New Job for the New Year? Read This First." The Wall Street Journal 2 Jan. 2015

The Rule of Threes. Omne trium perfectum. Or from Wikipedia: “...things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective.” A search for the Rule of Threes turns up rules not just for writing but for programming, mathematics and aviation too.

In comedy, there’s a reason three someones walk into a bar. And in improv, you quickly understand that patterns set expectations and breaking them can, sometimes, inject humor: “He was my dream date: Tall, dark and dumb.”

In children’s writing, the Rule of Threes sets up tension and release in a framework suited to children’s cognition and interest—the staying power of “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” “The Three Bears” and “The Three Little Pigs” is no coincidence.

So when I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal that gave scientific credibility to the Rule of Threes in corporate communications, all the pieces finally clicked for me.

I should be living the Rule of Threes.

For more than a year, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how to combine my work as a content strategist, an author and an actor. For years, I’ve kept the pieces apart. But what works for writing and comedy and ancient Romans should work for life.

Corporate clients can see the benefit of presentation skills and approachable storytelling. Agent/publishers appreciate performance plus professionalism. And directors/producers? I’m thinking they’ll enjoy working with an artist who’s not starving.

So in 2015, I will attempt to make the theoretical not only practical, but persuasive. Welcome to my grand experiment. Welcome to Rubberband Slingshot.

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