If you give people what they want first, then they are likely to accept anything else you want them to have. If you give them what you want first, chances are they won’t accept anything at all.
This is simply the classic principle that you should write from the reader’s point of view. And of course we all do this. Or do we?
How often do we interpret writing from the reader’s point of view as telling people: “What I have to say will be of benefit to you, so you should pay close attention?” When we do this, we are in fact writing from our point of view, not theirs. We may sincerely believe that our message is important and beneficial to our potential readers. But unless they agree-and agree almost immediately-the argument is lost.
We have all been guilty of such self-serving logic, and some of us do it more often than we would like to imagine. This is why this new formulation of the classic principle is potentially so useful. It forcefully reminds us that the readers are king. And like royalty they must be served first. Only after readers have sampled what we have on offer and find it palatable will they be truly inclined to listen to what we want to say. Assimilate it. And hopefully act on it.
The power of Yaffe’s Law lies in the fact that it is more than just a reminder. It is in fact a formula for ensuring that you will always write from the reader’s point of view. The trick is first to apply the formula, then check how well you have applied it-and, if necessary, reapply it.
The formula consists of three steps:
1. Determine what your readers really want to know, rather than what you want to say.
2. Give this to them first.
3. Link what you want to say to what they really want to know.