Monday, October 15, 2007

the rule of three

If you have a good ear, you probably already know about The Rule of Three.  You may even be employing it in your legal writing without realizing you're doing so.  I recently read about it in an article thus entitled, by Elliott Wilcox, in the New York State Bar Association Journal's September 2007 edition.  Wilcox uses classic examples to remind us how effective a rhetorical device the triple repetition of a phrase, pattern, or rhyme scheme can be:

"Friend, Romans, countrymen, ...." 

"I came, I saw, I conquered." 

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Snap, Crackle, Pop."

He also explain how comedians use the rule of three, twisting the third element to give us something unexpected and humorous.  And he advises that if you find yourself with two or four items or examples, you need to do some adding or subtracting, to arrive at the magic three items in a list that your audience, whether in writing or speaking, will find persuasive and memorable.


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