Is three a magical number? Does three prove to be all-inclusive? Does this, that, and the other cover it all? Here is the answer: three is the number of elements required to make a pattern. You will find, if you look, that throughout some of the greatest stories ever told, along with myths and fairy tales (ahhhh, see these three? 1) stories; 2) myths; and 3) fairy tales) that three (of whatever being talked about) pervades.
How Humans Process Information
By necessity, human beings have adapted to becoming experts at recognizing “patterns” of things and three is the smallest number by which to create a pattern. The number three is just enough – just short enough and just long enough – to do the best job of capturing the attention of an audience. Thought has also been given to the fact that, from childhood, we have been conditioned to respond well to things grouped in threes. For example, as pointed out by Copyblogger:
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Three Little Pigs
- The Three Stooges
- Three Blind Mice
- The Three Musketeers
Also consider that:
- Typically, there are three acts to a screenplay
- Three bullet points are considered more effective than two or four
Comedians Also Use the Rule of Three
To get a laugh, humorists and comedians acknowledge they also use the rule of three because it fits “the classic joke structure of set-up, anticipation, and punchline.” (Copyblogger) Insofar as comedy is concerned, the group of three can build suspense with the first two words/descriptions and then the final (and third) phrase in the set is designed to surprise you and throw you off-guard, thereby resulting in a laugh.
The number three can contain just enough, but yet not too much information for readers to take the time to read and be able to quickly grasp whatever message you want to impart. Three truly can be a magical number.