Balance Your Writing with The Power of Three


There’s something magical about the number 3. (Just ask the people at Schoolhouse Rock, right?)

Our minds find comfort, balance and completeness when things happen in threes.

As an example, look at that last sentence above. Notice the three details: comfort, balance & completeness. How would the sentence be different if it just said "Our minds find comfort and balance when things happen in threes"?

Threes create a pattern that research has found is easier for the brain to process and remember.

Think, for a moment, of how you notice instances of three in the world:

  • Morning, noon & night

  • Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness

  • Before, during, after

  • “Just do it.” (Nike’s slogan - three words)

  • Ready? Set. Go!

  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner

  • The three branches of government (legislative, judicial & executive)

  • The Three Musketeers, Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears

  • Beginning, middle, & end

  • 3…2…1… (countdown)

It is easy to harness this sense of comfort, balance and completeness in our writing by using a technique called the Power of Three. As a matter of fact, you are probably already using it and don’t even know it!

Teach It/Try It!

  1. When writing a complex sentence, list details in groups of three. For example, “The wind knocked over the garbage cans, sending the lids flying and creating quite the mess” is much more effective than “The wind knocked over the garbage cans and created quite a mess."

  2. Include three events leading up to a resolution. (The big, bad wolf knocks on the three doors of the three pigs; Goldilocks tries out three beds, etc.)

  3. Gather a collection of examples of the Power of Three from the books you read. A fun way to do this is to create a class chart and have students add to it when they find examples from your class read aloud. (This also reinforces the reading-writing connection.)