The Rule of Three

16 Pages Posted: 23 May 2018 Last revised: 30 Jan 2019

See all articles by Patrick Barry

Patrick Barry

University of Michigan Law School


Judges use the Rule of Three. Practitioners use the Rule of Three. And so do all manner of legal academics. Yet although many people seem to have an intuitive feel for how useful this rhetorical move is, no extended explanation of its mechanics and variety of forms exists. This essay offers that explanation. It begins with an introduction to the more straightforward form of the rule of three, which simply involves arranging information not in twos or fours or any other set of numbers—but rather in the trusty, melodic structure of threes. It then moves on to a closer look at some of the Rule of Three’s more subtle forms. And finally, it concludes with some playful questions and examples, each designed to make it easier to recognize and use the Rule of Three in memos, briefs, and many other kinds of legal writing.

Keywords: persuasion, advocacy, legal writing, grammar, syntax

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40, I20

Suggested Citation

Barry, Patrick James, The Rule of Three. Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 15 (2018): 247-61. Available at SSRN:

Patrick James Barry (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734.763.2276 (Phone)


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