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Public Speaking Tips : Alliteration and the Power of Three

Updated on May 18, 2016

Alliteration examples abound - look them up - use them

Tom has been speaking to audiences for nearly forty years and examples of alliteration are often used in his presentations.
Tom has been speaking to audiences for nearly forty years and examples of alliteration are often used in his presentations.

Welcome to Public Speaking Tips: Alliteration and the Power of Three.

There is something about a repetition of words that start with the same letter that sticks in the mind. Reading writing and ‘rithmetic is a typical example. By dropping off the letter ‘a’ on the last word this phrase, used so often to indicate basic, elementary education, it becomes a catch phrase used and understood by all. If we can seemingly automatically sprinkle a mix of such phrases throughout our speech or in our writing, our communication becomes far more memorable.

Three, rather than two, has a balancing quality about it.

Three, rather than two or four, has a balancing quality about it. It’s a bit like the old milk-maids wooden stool of yore. Three legs. Three legs give stability and will stand on the roughest ground. Two obvious won’t stand up – in this case make enough impact – and four seems to just over do it. In using Three to illustrate a point, numbers One and Two are often used to set up number Three. We hear this in the interminable jokes about the Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman. Same with so many other jokes, the first two set up a line of thought – the third pulls out the carpet! It all falls over. Sudden incongruity...and we have humor.

That Magic Number of Three

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Billy Goats Gruff, the Three Little Pigs – here once again we have that magic number of Three, and once again we have them placed in such order that each leads from the beginning to a rounding-off of a story. Two would not be enough: four would be tedious. And in the use of the three, we build steadily to a climax, which means we use the most powerful visual and emotional-rousing word last.

We nearly all us tend to gravitate towards this use of three words - generally adjectives - in our ordinary conversation, “And this great big fat chap sat down.” “Oh, he’s Tall, dark and handsome.” “Beautiful: a Slender, blue-eyed, blonde.”

Alliteration makes the three-word phrase even more powerful

In this last, you’ll notice a subtle difference, yet it is also something which happens seemingly automatically, and that is the use of alliteration on the last two words ‘blue-eye blonde. Both start with the letter ‘B’ And these words just roll off the tongue so easily, so readily. And, once again, because they do have the same starting letter, the phrase is easier to remember.

Even this abbreviated form of alliteration, that is, having the last two words of a three-word phrase the same, gives it more power. Consider then what happens when all three words in the phrase begin with the same letter: A long, lasting, love. Quaint, quiet, quality. Mind matters most! Imagine how any one of those last three phrases, used repeatedly throughout a persuasive presentation would lift it, give it lasting power, in the minds of those who were hearing those words.

Read wisely, widely and read well, to pick up on your own use of alliteration

I cannot give you any specific directives on how to acquire such phrases in your ordinary day-to-day conversation. They come of your conditioning in all probability. If you read widely, and of good authors, you’ll have probably picked up ways of thinking that bring these powerful, three-word phrases to mind. But in your prepared work; in say a speech you’ve prepared and will be presenting, you can certainly pick out such phrases as meet your purpose. So in finishing this Hub and the Magic Number of Three I will say give you what has become almost hackneyed in the Speaker’s World. It is comprizes even longer alliteration: Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

I hope you enjoyed Speaking Tips : Alliteration and the Power of Three.

Keep smiling,


Tom on How to Introduce longer stories


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  • billyaustindillon profile image

    billyaustindillon 7 years ago

    Tom very interesting and thinking about it I see alliteration around and the power of threes - never though to the three bears that way. Even in sports we only remember the first three Gold Silver and Bronze. Patterns seem to happen in threes also. I look forward to reading through your other hubs.

  • Tusitala Tom profile image

    Tom Ware 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Thanks, Embee77. Will look the name up as you advise.

  • embee77 profile image

    embee77 7 years ago

    Tom - Great work here! Yes, alliteration is musical and appeals to our sense of sound and rhythm. It's a poetic way to emphasize a point. Your article reminds me of a talented young (30-something) singer-songwriter named Brett Dennen who uses imagery and alliteration in a most beautiful way. Look him up, his language is awesome - he can really turn a phrase. Closer to You is a gem but don't stop there.

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    Tusitala Tom  7 years ago

    Thank you, Marty - SEO Dad. It's always nice to get some positive feedback. You should have sent it three times.


  • profile image

    Marty Ware 7 years ago

    Very interesting indeed. It seems that it's not only writing,public and speaking but many sports (boxing 1-2-3), spiritual applications God, Jesus and Holy ghosts. Believe me there is strenght in the power of 3.

    Marty Ware

    The SEO Dad