How to Use the Rule of 3 to Supercharge Your Writing

Greetings! You’re in for a fun treat: learning all about the secret awesome sauce of powerful copywriting, held dear and effectively applied by marketers, advertisers and speech writers alike…the rule of three.

Described in detail by Heather in this week’s SEO Copywriting how-to video, once you learn about this tip, you’ll think “Oh my goodness – this is EVERYWHERE!” And it is, because it is a tried-and-true strategy that has stood the test of copywriting time.

Tune in as Heather explains what the rule of three is, and shows you how to employ the rule of three in your Web writing, from creating killer benefit statements to engaging taglines to fantastic web copy…

What’s the “rule of three”?

What we know collectively as copywriters is that grouping things in threes tends to provide a greater impact, and when speaking it tends to roll off the tongue easily. This is something that speechwriters and marketers have been using since the beginning of copywriting time.

  • Grouping things in threes provides a greater impact – and makes the list easier to remember.
  • Old school marketers have been using this technique since the beginning of copywriting time (and speech writers, too!)

So if you think about the advertising messages or slogans out there, you see this rule of 3 happens everywhere:

  •  “Just do it” – Nike
  • “Tune in, turn on, drop out” – Timothy Leary
  • “Blood, sweat and tears” – The band, and the saying
  • “Words and phrases and clauses” – Conjunction Junction

Heather had to use the little screenshot from “Conjunction junction,” because if you grew up in that generation then you know the lyrics, “Words and phrases and clauses.” Again, the rule of three is used to make something stick in the readers’ or listeners’ minds.

So here are some ways that you can edge this rule of three into your copy….

Use three benefit statements

One of the first ways you can incorporate the rule of three in your copy is to use three main benefit statements. While this is especially applicable to your home page, it is actually something that you can do on your other web pages as well.

  • Rather than listing a bunch of benefits, limit yourself to your top three heavy-hitters.

The screenshot example shown here is from You Need A Budget (YNAB). As you can see, on their home page they have three main benefits bullets:

  • A Proven Method
  • Amazing Software
  • Free, Live Classes

So all of the benefits pop! They stand out, and as readers it’s really easy for us to quick-scan the page and see exactly what’s in it for us.

Create a “rule of three” tagline

  • Can you distill your company’s essence down to three main statements? Sure you can!

So here we have an example from GAIAM, with their tagline:  “live | learn | grow.” And Mind Body’s tagline:  “Love your business.”  See how well that those three-word groupings slide off the tongue, and provide a powerful impact?

Again, this is something you can do for your own business and for your clients’ businesses!

Think in threes when you write your copy

The third thing to remember is to think in threes when you write your content:

  • There are lots of ways to structure your copy so that you’re able to really leverage the rule of three.

So for example, here we have 37 Signals, presenting their web content in three main points: “Frustration free web-based apps for collaboration, sharing information, and making decisions.”

Another great example is from Despair, Inc. – Heather loves their demotivational posters. Again, we see three concise main points: “Demotivational Posters. Invented here. Perfected here.”

And even looking at Google’s copy, where they’re promoting Google Drive, they use three main bullet points: “Create and collaborate,” “Store everything safely,” and “Search everything.”

So again, once you’re hip to this rule of three, you will notice that it is everywhere – in advertising messages, in books, in magazines, and in speeches – and again, this is something that you can use in your own copy to help that copy pop and make a greater impact.


photo thanks to lrargerich (Luis Argerich)

12 replies
  1. Lewis LaLanne says:

    You’re so ON with this strategy Heather! I love the concept of speaking in threes. And I love speaking in threes on top of threes.

    One place I think this is essential to do this is when fleshing out features and benefits. I believe the example of YNAB can be enhanced with a Unit of Conviction.

    A unit of conviction is this – You state a claim (Amazing Software) but then you back it up with two benefits.

    So let’s say your amazing software is more expensive than anybody else’s…

    You don’t want to avoid this feature. You know it’s gonna come up. Use it as a way to convince them that this is the best product.

    You could do this by saying something along the lines of . . .

    “Our amazing software is the most expensive out there and it’s also the best because we’ve spent and spared no expense in producing it. This means you’re gonna get what you really pay for instead of having some piece of junk that breaks down on you all the time. Which really means you’re gonna make a lot more money on your investment and you’re gonna get it back in a very short period of time.”

    And you make this claim/statement real and give it knock out punch power by giving them evidence that backs up what you just said…

    “And the evidence of it is that we delivered on this promise with this company, that company and this company.” Specificity in results pertaining to this exact feature here will make it land with a thud.

  2. Heather says:

    LOVE your example, Lewis. Thank you! This is fantastic.

    (I love writing/speaking in threes, too. I do it all the time. If I only had a dollar for all the three-sentence paragraphs that I’ve written over the years!) ;)

    Thank you!


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