Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As July 4th approaches, you’ll probably hear this phrase a few times.
Why does this phrase stand out? Historically, it’s part of one of the most important documents in our country’s history. The writing is eloquent, inspirational and impactful. Jefferson was an accomplished writer – and one who knew how to use the Rule of 3.
The Rule of 3 says that our brains are wired to retain a maximum of three to four points. A phone number with area code is a great example. When you tell someone your phone number, how do you break it down? You don’t generally say “It’s 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-9”. You break it down into smaller manageable chunks. “1-2-3”, followed by “4-5-6”, followed by “7-8-9-9”. It almost has its own rhythm. It’s much easier to retain information broken up into smaller groups.
Some other great Rule of 3 examples:
- “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears”
- The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future
- The three little pigs
- “Stop, Look, Listen”
- “Location, location, location”
- Lather, rinse, repeat
- Lights, camera, action!
At Heartwood, we use the Rule of 3 when discussing a video production with our clients:
First off, video consists of three phases: Pre-production, production and post-production. Pre-production is the discovery, research and planning phase (more 3s!). Production is when the filming takes place and post-production is putting it all together.
Messaging: Even if there is a good deal of information to convey, try to distill it down to three main points. Content within the video should support those three points. Think about a presidential debate. While the questions are different, the most successful candidates have honed their responses to support their main campaign themes. It’s easy to overload an audience with information. If it doesn’t support your main point, it’s probably best left out of the video.
Structure: As the old saying goes – “Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you’ve said.” Not only is that a Rule of 3 in and of itself, but it gives you a beginning, middle and end to your messaging. It’s similar to writing a persuasive essay with an opening paragraph, 3 supporting statements and a closing paragraph.
You may not write a founding document of a nation, but if you put the Rule of 3 to work you just might have more effective, memorable and compelling (see what we did there?) communications.
Thomas Jefferson would be proud!