Using The Tricolon In Your Writing
In writing, tricolon is a word that refers to a series of three parallel items, whether they are words, phrases or clauses. While that sounds like a simple enough structure, it’s actually one of the most powerful devices you can employ when you want your writing to exhibit a strong rhetorical effect.
Look at these examples from popular literature and songs:
- “…bewitched, bothered and bewildered”
- “Instead of language we have jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and instead of genuine ideas, bright suggestions.”
- “It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s Superman”
- “…life, libery and the pursuit of happiness.”
There are countless more examples of the triumvirate pairing such as those above. In each of those cases, the three-in-a-series approach was used to heighten the impact of the lines. Imagine, for instance, how memorable those lines will be if they had two or five elements instead: “Bewitched, bothered, bewildered, becharmed and beguiled” doesn’t quite carry the same punch, does it?
Why does three work better than other combinations? Personally, I think they do because three is just long enough to avoid ending a series abruptly (a list with two items doesn’t really feel like a list), all while being short enough to avoid droning off into a monotonous rant. Plus, most people can remember three items easily. Add more and recall can get dicey.