Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stuff comes in threes

I'm sure that by now you know the speaker's "rule of three". Whenever you are giving a list of items, always try to make it a list of three. It's easy on the ear, and is also easy for both you and the audience to remember. The "speaker's triplet" is also often used to trigger applause in political speeches, since the audience recognises that the list is complete as the third item is spoken.

Why does it work? I don't know, and don't really care (though I'm sure that I will receive some explanations as a result of this post). The thing is, it does work, so you should use it. You can use the same word ("education, education, education"), three different words ("faith, hope and charity"), or three phrases ("Government of the people, by the people, for the people") You can even use three complete sentences ("The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us" - Nelson Mandela)

Even in debates, if you are unsure about how to deliver a list, just give the first two that you can think of. Other listeners, aware that the list cannot be complete, will wait for several seconds before speaking, giving you time to gather your thoughts.

Finally, consider making the last item longer than the others ("life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness").This gives an implicit emphasis on the importance of the last in the list, and allows you to finish with a flourish (or maybe three flourishes)

1 comment:

Ruth Seeley said...

Aristotle's Rhetoric - for some reason I thought it was DesCartes - knew I should have taken a philosophy course.