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How the Simple Rule of 3 Makes Stories Memorable

April 5, 2024

Not 1, not 2, but 3 famous chefs… This is the captivating promise of Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars, a brand-new Channel 9 series that knows the timeless allure of the rule of three.

From ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ to ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ to the real estate mantra ‘Location, location, location,’ triads (the non-mafia kind) have a magical ability to captivate, entertain, and linger in our minds. Notice what I did there!

Why does this rule hold such sway? Because it taps into a human cognition fundamental: we love patterns, and threes are the gold standard of patterns. A trio signals, a beginning, middle, and end, mirroring the classic storytelling structure.

There is a satisfying cadence with 3, and it also creates a sense of choice. Consider how your coffee orders come in small, medium, or large.

Research reveals our brains are wired to remember things in threes. It’s the smallest pattern that feels complete yet concise, making it ideal for storytelling, persuasion, and even comedy. To land a joke, comedians will end the triple with something unexpected, absurd even, guaranteeing laughs.

Consider my own experience with the rule of three in storytelling. In a pivotal moment of my Moth story, I described sorting books into two piles: keep or donate. Initially, I repeated the catchphrase ‘keep, donate’ twice. However, my mentor Robbi Mack wisely pointed out that embracing the rule of three would elevate the narrative. Now, with the simple repetition of ‘keep, donate,’ three times the story flows seamlessly, leaving a more lasting impact on the audience.

So, remember the power of three, whether you’re crafting an advertisement, delivering a speech, or sharing a story. It’s not just a rule; it’s a superpower.


Dry facts and data fade from memory over time, but an engaging story is difficult to forget. In Hooked, communication and business storytelling experts Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu use real-world examples and proven, effective techniques to teach the skill of great business storytelling. They explain what good storytelling is, why business leaders need to learn it, how to create effective stories, and how to practice for perfection.

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