Tag Archives: rhetoric

Rhetorical Devices — Rule of Three

The rule of three describes triads of all types — any collection of three related elements. Two more specific triad variants are hendiatris and tricolon.

Hendiatris

A hendiatris is a figure of speech where three successive words are used to express a central idea.

Examples of hendiatris include:

  • Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]
  • Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité [French motto]
  • Citius, Altius, Fortius” [Olympic motto]
  • Wine, women, and song” [Anonymous]

Tricolon

tricolon is a series of three parallel elements (words or phrases). In a strict tricolon, the elements have the same length but this condition is often put aside.

Examples of tricola include:

  • “Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]
  • Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt]
  • Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation – not because of [1] the height of our skyscrapers, or [2] the power of our military, or [3] the size of our economy.” [Barack Obama, Keynote speech to Democratic National Convention, July 2004]

WORDS AND NUMBERS

THE SOUTHERN COMMUNICATION JOURNAL 55 (SUMMER, 1990), 337-354

 WORDS AND NUMBERS: MATHEMATICAL DIMENSIONS OF RHETORIC

 BY ALLEN H. MERRIAM

 This essay investigates how numbers function rhetorically by in­fluencing persuasive appeals, the structure of messages, and our use of .language. The author argues that "three" is the dominant numerical motif of rhetoric in the English language.

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from ‘Discourse & Conversation Analysis’

I'm sure you've encountered all manner of theories purporting to explain the significance of things coming in threes. Here is another one for your collection, from 'Discourse & Conversation Analysis', an interesting branch of sociology that concerns itself with the linguistic and behavioural conventions that underpin day-to-day social life.

Continue reading from ‘Discourse & Conversation Analysis’