REPEAT THREE TIMES
2) Repeat elements that are important for audiences to understand and remember 3 or more times.
Students often express the mis-perception that redundancy (or re-stating information) is forbidden in scientific communication. Given the strict word and space constraints that authors face, it is true that reducing redundancy is desirable in many circumstances. For example, data and statistics presented in tables do not need to be reiterated verbatim in the text of a manuscript.
However, redundancy is sometimes useful and appropriate. Redundancy can help to identify and reinforce the most important conclusions of an argument, and is therefore worth the investment of additional words.
The Rule of Three suggests that the most important conclusions of an argument be repeated at least three times. For example, in the personal statement outlined in section (1), the most important sub-conclusions are empathy, working with diverse populations, and demonstrated ability to improve motor performance. If the student were to use a traditional 5 paragraph structure for their essay, the student could
(A) Identify the 3 most important sub-conclusions in the Introduction
(B) Repeat (and defend) each the important sub-conclusions in the body paragraph that defends the sub-conclusion.
(C) Repeat the 3 main sub-conclusions in the final paragraph (perhaps by explaining specifically how the students attributes/skills might be a good fit for a particular institution).
Repeating each sub-conclusion at least 3 times helps the audience identify that the sub-conclusion is important, and also remember what each sub-conclusion is. Repetition can thus be seen as an important tool in establishing and clarifying hierarchical frameworks.
Although our discussion of each guideline focused on writing, the Rule of Three is even more important for spoken communication (e.g. spoken presentations). Audiences listening to spoken presentations have severe constraints on their ability to understand and retain information. Therefore, presenters must make extraordinary efforts to ensure that audiences have repeated opportunities to understand reasonable amounts of information.