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 collobarate,” “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.

Thanks for joining us for this week’s SEO Copywriting how-to! If you have any questions or topic ideas for Heather, let her know: you are encouraged to email her [at] heather@seocopywriting.com or tweet her @heatherlloyd. See you next Monday!

Would you like to know more about writing for Google?  (This is especially important since their latest algo update, “Penguin”,  just rolled out.) Simply visit the SEO Copywriting Buzz page, and sign up to receive either the daily or weekly newsletter (or both), and receive Heather’s “How to write for Google” whitepaper, free!

photo thanks to lrargerich (Luis Argerich)