The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a Professional Philip Yaffe, Belgium

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The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a Professional

Philip Yaffe, Belgium

Philip Yaffe was born in Boston in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles. In 1965 he graduated in mathematics from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), where he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, the daily student newspaper.


Philip Yaffe has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974. E-mail: or .



A taste


Have you ever noticed that books about effective writing talk only about effective writing and books about effective public speaking talk only about public speaking, and never the twain meet?

"This is a mistake," says Philip Yaffe, former writer with The Wall Street Journal and long-time international marketing communication executive. "If you write well you will probably speak well; if you write poorly you will probably speak poorly. Writing and speaking are intimately related and should be considered together, rather than as distinct disciplines"

To demonstrate the point, Mr. Yaffe's recently published book, The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional, addresses the challenge head on.

Inspired by Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address, the book examines the handful of underlying principles and practices that make this miniature masterpiece (only 272 words) perhaps the greatest single piece of prose and oratory in history.

The principles of effective writing and speaking are few and easy to understand," he asserts. "Unfortunately, in most books on the subject, they are buried under an avalanche of verbiage about technique. The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional clearly separates principle from practice. The theoretical section of the book is very short, supplemented by a series of appendices of illuminating examples and exercises.

As the author points out, "Almost everyone agrees that a well-written text must be clear and concise. However, hardly anyone can tell you what these criteria mean in any practical, applicable way."

For example, if you try to define "clarity", you will probably do something like this:

Question: What makes this text clear?
Answer: It is easy to understand.
Question: What makes it easy to understand?
Answer: It is simple.
Question: What do you mean by simple?
Answer: It is clear.

You in fact end up going around in a circle. The text is clear because it is easy to understand . . . because it is simple . . . because it is clear.

All of these words are synonyms. While synonyms may have nuances, they do not have content, so you are still left to your own subjective appreciation. However, what you think is clear may not be clear to someone else, Mr. Yaffe explains.

The book describes quasi-objective tests for clarity and conciseness. If your text fails these tests, then it needs to be revised. If it passes them, then -- and only then -- should you concentrate on the mechanics of language (style, grammar, syntax, etc.) in order to make your already good text even better.

The Gettysburg Approach also defines and describes a test for density". This seldom-discussed third pillar of effective writing concerns ordering information for best effect.

Mr. Yaffe then shows that the basic principles of effective writing and effective speaking are essentially the same, but with some subtle and important differences in application. "The speaker can use eye contact, intonation, body language and other techniques not available to the writer to convey his message. However, as with printed words, if spoken words are not clear, concise and dense, the speech is destined to fail. Stage presence is the frosting on the cake; it must never be mistaken for the cake itself."

Returning to his underlying inspiration, in an appendix Mr. Yaffe compares Abraham Lincoln to William Shakespeare. "It is remarkable that The Gettysburg Address, a work of non-fiction, and the Marc Anthony soliloquy on the assassination of Julius Caesar, a work of pure fiction, technically have so much in common. This is further proof that the guiding principles of effective writing and effective speaking don't just overlap, they are virtually identical.

"Treating writing and speaking as distinct disciplines not only makes them more difficult to learn. It virtually ensures that neither one will ever be properly mastered."

The Gettysburg Approach is rich in feisty and original insights and observations. Although deeply didactic, it is anything but dull. As one reviewer enthused, "This book is really fun to read."

A taste

Here come three articles based on the book to rapidly get a flavor of what it is all about.

How an Ugly Duckling Became a Swan

Over the past 40-plus years as a journalist and marketing communication consultant, I have frequently been told that I am an exceptionally good writer by teachers, friends, colleagues, and clients. But I wasn’t always a good writer; in fact, I used be a very bad one.

So what happened to bring about this monumental change? Basically, university.
When I was growing up in Los Angeles, I was a very unusual kid. Like all youngsters in the 1950s, I loved surfing. But I also loved school more, even to the point of complaining about holidays because I would be deprived of the joy of going to class.
I was especially fond of math and science; I never really thought about writing. However, when I went from primary to secondary school, I quickly realized that writing would become increasingly important. So being the bizarre kid I was, I decided to teach myself how to do it.
I did two basic things. On my own, I studied English grammar to the point that I knew it backwards, forwards, and upside down. I could put together the most involved, convoluted, grammatically flawless sentences imaginable. I also studied vocabulary. Classically, I challenged myself to learn—and use—five new words a day. I very rapidly gained a vocabulary far above the norm for my age.
I then put the two things together and decided that the essence of good writing was intricate sentences liberally sprinkled with sophisticated vocabulary. This was how I wrote themes, essays, book reports, etc. As I expected, I always got top marks.
During my last year in secondary school, I submitted one of these arcane masterpieces, which came back with the traditional “A”. However, this time there was a note saying: “Philip, you have such interesting, original ideas. Why do you bury them under such complex, convoluted language? Next year when you go to university, I suggest that you take a one-term course in basic journalism to learn how to simplify your writing.”
I had no particular interest in journalism, or even in writing. However I did have particular respect for this teacher, so I decided to follow his advice. At university I enrolled in a first-term journalism class.
This was when everything changed.
At the end of the second week, the professor assigned us a short article to write. I confidently handed it in. But when it came back, instead of the traditional “A” grade, it had a “C”. I was severely shaken; this was the first “C” I had ever seen. I worked rather harder on the second assignment, which also came back with a “C”.
I told myself that this just didn’t make any sense, so for the third assignment I put my heart and soul into the work. This time it did not come back with a “C”. It came back with a “D“.
Now I was really shaken, and scared. I began actually listening to what the professor was saying. Finally I realized that writing clearly and concisely was much more difficult than the so-called “sophisticated” writing I had been doing.
Recognizing "simple" writing to be a challenge, I really concentrated on what I was doing, and my grades started to rise. Not just in journalism. Even better, I began getting complimentary notes from professors in other classes on how much they appreciated my new, crisp, clean writing style. In other words, what I was learning as basic journalism was generating positive results in my other academic pursuits.
For example, in a political science class I once turned in an essay that I knew went directly counter to the professor’s opinion. In an English literature class I turned in a review of one of the professor’s favorite books, which I trashed. In both cases the reaction was the same. I got an “A”. While neither professor was totally convinced, they both said that I had presented my arguments in such a clear, compelling manner, they simply couldn’t be dismissed.
Having discovered journalism, I subsequently joined the student newspaper, rose through the ranks, and in my final year became editor-in-chief. I also began tutoring in writing. In the mid-1960s, universities didn't have writing centers to help foundering students. About the only way to resolve writing problems was through private tutoring.
I remember one case in particular. A girl came to me with a note from a professor: “Young lady, I advise you either to drop my class immediately or prepare to fail it.” Obviously she was bright enough; after all she was a student at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). So where was the problem? I read a couple of her essays that had gotten such poor marks. There was no question that she had a lot of interesting things to say. Equally, there was no question that she was saying them very poorly.
It very quickly became apparent where the problem lay. She simply was not fully using one of the fundamental principles of good writing because she thought that consistently applying it was just too much trouble. It took a couple of sessions to convince her that it wasn't too much trouble—in fact it was crucial. Her writing immediately began to improve. At the end of the term not only didn't she fail the class, she had pulled her grade all the way up from a certain “F” to a solid “B”.
I am not saying that to be a good writer in general, you should study journalism first. However, because it was the antithesis of the poor writing I had been doing, journalism gave me a flying start. Over the past four decades I think I have added some insights into good writing (and speaking) that I didn’t learn from journalism. Or at least I have made explicit certain key ideas which previously were implicit, and therefore poorly applied.
Today, as when I was a student, my passion is still mathematics and science. My career path has taken me in a somewhat different direction. But I don’t regret it; it’s been quite a journey.
The moral of the story? There are in fact two of them:

  1. Good writing is a fundamentally important skill, in academia and beyond.

  2. Beware of teachers bearing advice; it could radically change your life.

The Mathematics of Persuasive Communication

At first glance mathematics and persuasive communication—writing, and particularly public speaking—would seem to have little in common. After all, mathematics is an objective science, while speaking involves voice quality, inflection, eye contact, personality, body language, and other subjective components.

However, under the surface they are very similar.
Above anything else, the success of an oral presentation depends on the precision of its structure. Mathematics is all about precision. It is therefore not so odd to think that applying some of the concepts of mathematics to oral presentations could make them substantially more effective.
As they say in the film industry, three key factors go into making a successful movie: the script, the script, and the script. Likewise, three key factors go into making a successful speech: the structure, the structure, and the structure.
Not convinced? Then let's start with something less radical.
I think we can all agree that good speaking is related to good writing. If you can write a good text, then you are well on your way to preparing a good oral presentation. Therefore, if you improve your writing, you will also improve your speaking.
To simplify matters, from now on we will talk mainly about good writing, because in most cases the same ideas apply directly to good speaking.
Know what you are doing
Many commercial companies do not live up to their potential—and sometimes even go bankrupt—because they fail to correctly define the business they are in.
Perfume companies, for example, do not sell fragrant liquids, but rather love, romance, seductiveness, self-esteem, etc. Bio-food companies do not sell organic produce, but rather honesty, purity, nature, etc. Automobile manufacturers do not sell transportation, but rather freedom, adventure, spontaneity, prestige, etc. The fact is, each industry, even each individual product, may have to determine what it is truly all about—and there are thousands of them!
Writers are lucky. There are numerous variations to what we do, but there are really only two fundamental types of writing. It is important to recognize this, because not only are they quite different, in some respects they are exactly opposite. So unless we clearly recognize which type of writing we are doing—and how it differs from the other one—we will almost certainly commit serious errors.
What are the two types? And how do they differ?

  • Creative writing

Texts such as short stories, novels, poems, radio plays, stage plays, television scripts, film scripts, etc. The fundamental purpose of creative writing is to amuse and entertain.

  • Expository writing

Texts such as memos, reports, proposals, training manuals, newsletters, research papers, etc. The fundamental purpose of expository writing is to instruct and inform.

Essential attitude towards expository writing
Because the objectives of creative and expository writing are so different, before striking a key you must adopt the appropriate attitude towards the type of writing you are doing.

  • Creative writing attitude

Everyone wants to read want what you are going to write.

After all, who doesn't want to be amused and entertained?

  • Expository writing attitude

No one wants to read what you are going to write.

Most people don't like to be instructed and informed. They probably would much prefer to be doing something else.

The importance of recognizing and adopting the "expository writing attitude" cannot be over-stated, because it can dramatically change the very nature of what you are writing. Here are a couple of examples.

  1. Corporate image brochure

I was once commissioned to write a corporate image brochure. Two things are certain about these expensive, glossy booklets:

  1. Almost all companies of any size feel compelled to produce them.

  2. Virtually no one ever reads them.

Starting from the attitude that no one would want to read what I was about to write, I created a brochure that people not only read. They actually called the company to request additional copies to give to friends, clients and professional colleagues!

  1. Stagnating product

On another occasion, I was commissioned to develop an advertising campaign to revitalize a product with stagnating sales. Applying the expository writing attitude, I discovered that three of the product's key benefits were not being properly exploited. Why? The manufacturer felt that everything about their product was important, so for years they had been systematically burying these three key benefits under an avalanche of other information of less interest to potential buyers. The new campaign sharply focused on the key benefits; virtually all other information was moved to the background or eliminated. As a result, sales shot up some 40 per cent in the first year.

With some nuances, this self-same expository writing attitude can be—and should be—applied to speaking, as well.

Essential approach to expository writing
Because creative writing and expository writing have essentially different objectives and attitudes, they require essentially different approaches.

  • Creative writing approach

Play with language to generate pleasure. In other words, use your mastery of the language to amuse and entertain.

  • Expository writing approach

Organize information to generate interest. Clever use of language will never make dull information interesting; however, you can organize the information to make it interesting. Forget about literary pyrotechnics. Concentrate on content.

We are now going to leave creative writing, because most of what we write, and say, is expository.

What do we mean by "good writing"?
We are now ready to return to the notion of how mathematics applies to good writing, and by extension to good speaking.
When someone reads an expository text or listens to an expository speech, they are likely to judge it as good or not good. You probably do this yourself. But what do you actually mean when you say a text or a speech is "good".
After some struggling, most people will usually settle on two criteria: clear and concise.
Mathematics depends on unambiguous definitions; if you are not clear about the problem, you are unlikely to find the solution. So we are going to examine these criteria in some detail in order to establish objective definitions—and even quasi-mathematical formulas—for testing whether a text or a presentation truly is "good".

  1. Clarity

How do you know that a text is clear? If this sounds like a silly question, try to answer it. You will probably do something like this:

Question: What makes this text clear?

Answer: It is easy to understand.

Question: What makes it easy to understand?

Answer: It is simple.

Question: What do you mean by simple?

Answer: It is clear.
You in fact end up going around in a circle. The text is clear because it is easy to understand . . . because it is simple . . . because it is clear.
"Clear", "easy to understand", and "simple" are synonyms. While synonyms may have nuances, they do not have content, so you are still left to your own subjective appreciation. However, what you think is clear may not be clear to someone else.
This is why we give "clear" an objective definition, almost like a mathematical formula. To achieve clarity—i.e. virtually everyone will agree that it is clear—you must do three things.

  1. Emphasize what is of key importance.

  2. De-emphasize what is of secondary importance.

  3. Eliminate what is of no importance.

In short: Cl = EDE

Like all mathematical formulas, this one works only if you know how to apply it, which requires judgment.
In this case, you must first decide what is of key importance, i.e. the key ideas you want your readers to take away from your text. This is not always easy to do. It is far simpler to say that everything is of key importance, so you put in everything you have. But there is a dictum that warns: If everything is important, then nothing is. In other words, unless you first do the work of defining what you really want your readers to know, they won't do it for you. They will get lost in your text and either give up or come out the other end not knowing what it is they have read.
What about the second element of the formula, de-emphasize what is of secondary importance?
That sounds easy enough. You don't want key information and ideas to get lost in the details. If you clearly emphasize what is of key importance—via headlines, Italics, underlining, or simply how you organize the information—then whatever is left over is automatically de-emphasized.
Now the only thing left to do is eliminate what is of no importance. But how do you distinguish between what is of secondary importance and what is of no importance? Once again, this requires judgment, which is helped by the following very important test.
Secondary importance is anything that supports and/or elaborates one or more of the key ideas. If you judge that a piece of information in fact does support or elaborate one or more key ideas, then you keep it. If not, you eliminate it.

  1. Conciseness

How do you know that a text is concise? If this once again sounds like a silly question, let's try to answer it.

Question: What makes this text concise?

Answer: It is short.

Question: What do you mean by short?

Answer: It doesn't have too many words.

Question: How do you know it doesn't have too many words?

Answer: Because it is concise.
So once again we end up going around in a circle. The text is concise because it is short . . . because it doesn't have too many words . . . because it is concise. Once again, we have almost a mathematical formula to solve the problem. To achieve conciseness, your text should meet two criteria. It must be as:

  1. Long as necessary

  2. Short as possible

In symbols: Co = LS

If you have fulfilled the criteria of "clarity" correctly, you already understand "as long as necessary". It means covering all the ideas of key importance you have identified, and all the ideas of secondary importance needed to support and/or elaborate these key ideas.
Note that nothing is said here about the number of words, because it is irrelevant. If it takes 500 words to be "as long as necessary", then 500 words must be used. If it takes 1500 words, then this is all right too. The important point is that everything that should be in the text is fully there.
Then what is meant by "as short as possible"?
Once again, this has nothing do to with the number of words. It is useless to say at the beginning, "I must not write more than 400 words on this subject", because 600 words may be the minimum necessary.
"As short as possible" means staying as close as you can to the minimum. But not because people prefer short texts; in the abstract the terms "long" and "short" have no meaning. The important point is that all words beyond the minimum tend to reduce clarity.
We should not be rigid about this. If being "as long as necessary" can be done in 600 words and you use 630, this is probably a question of individual style. It does no harm. However, if you use 750 words, it is almost certain that the text will not be completely clear — and that the reader will become confused, bored or lost.
In sum, conciseness means saying what needs to be said in the minimum number of words. Conciseness:

  • Aids clarity by ensuring best structuring of information.

  • Holds reader interest by providing maximum information in minimum time.

  1. Density

Density is a less familiar concept than clarity and conciseness, but is equally important. In mathematical form, density consists of:

  1. Precise information

  2. Logically linked

In other words: D = PL

Importance of precise information
Suppose you enter a room where there are two other people and say, "It's very hot today." One of those people comes from Alaska; in his mind he interprets "hot" to mean about 23°C. The other one comes from Florida; to him "hot" means 45°C.
You are off to a rather bad start, because each one has a totally different idea of what you want to say. But suppose you say, "It's very hot today; the temperature is 28° C." Now there is no room for confusion. They both know quite clearly that it is 28° C outside and that you consider this to be very hot.
Using as much precise information as possible in a text gives the writer two significant advantages.

  • Mind Control

Let's not be embarrassed by the term "mind control", because this is precisely what the good expository writer wants to achieve. He needs for the reader's mind to go only where he directs it and nowhere else.

Because they can be interpreted in unknown ways, ambiguous terms (so-called "weasel words") such as "hot", "cold", "big", "small", "good", "bad", etc., allow the reader's mind to escape from the writer's control. An occasional lapse is not critical; however, too many weasel words in a text will inevitably lead to reader confusion, boredom and disinterest.

  • Reader Confidence

Using precise information generates confidence, because it tells the reader that the writer really knows what he is talking about.

Reader confidence is important in any kind of text, but it is crucial in argumentation. If you are trying to win a point, the last thing you want is the reader to challenge your data, but this is the first reaction imprecise writing will provoke. Precise writing ensures that the discussion will be about the implications of the information, i.e. what conclusions should be drawn, not whether the whole thing needs to go back for further investigation.

Importance of logical linking
Precise data (facts) by themselves are insufficient. To be meaningful, data must be organized to create information, i.e. help the reader understand. There are two important tests to apply when converting data into information:

  1. Relevance

Is a particular piece of data really needed? As we have seen, unnecessary data damages understanding and ultimately undermines confidence. Therefore, any data that do not either aid understanding or promote confidence should be eliminated.

  1. Misconceptions

The logical link between data must be made explicit to prevent the reader from coming to false conclusions. For example: a specific situation may be confused for a general one; credit for an achievement may seem to belong to only one person when it really belongs to a group; a company policy may appear to apply only in very specific circumstances rather than in all circumstances, etc.
To ensure that a logical link is clear, place the two pieces of data as close to each other as possible, preferably right next to each other. When data are widely separated, their logical relationship is masked and the reader is unlikely to make the connection.

What Do You Want? What Do Your Readers Want?
I frequently ask non-professional writers what they are thinking when they sit down at the keyboard to compose their text. The answer is usually something like, "How do I want to present my material?" "What tone and style should I use?" "In what order should I put my key ideas?" And so on.
However, if you start with the correct attitude, i.e. no one wants to read what you write, your first task is none of these. Ahead of anything else, you must find reasons why people should spend their time to read what you write.
In general, you cannot force people to read what they don't want to, even if they are being paid to do so.
For example, you produce a report defining opportunities for increased sales and profits. However, if it is not well written, even people who must read it as part of their job are unlikely to give it their full attention. On the other hand, if they immediately see their own self-interest in reading what you have written, they will do so gladly and with full attention. In fact, you probably couldn't stop them from reading it!
There are various methods to generate such a strong desire to read, depending on the type of readers and the type of information. Whatever the most appropriate device, the crucial thing is to recognize the imperative need to use it. Until this need is met, nothing else is of any importance.

Yaffe’s Law vs. Murphy’s Law:

A New Look at an Old Problem

For most educated persons, Murphy’s Law is the fundamental law of the universe, even more important than birth, death and gravity.

In its purest form, Murphy’s Law says: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. There is an important but often neglected corollary: Many things that can't go wrong, will go wrong anyhow.
I am now pleased to report a loophole. In at least one important area of human activity—expository (non-fiction) writing and public speaking—Murphy’s Law does not have total coverage. This is because it can be counteracted, at least partially, by a rival principle that I recently discovered and immodestly call Yaffe’s Law

Yaffe’s Law states: If you give people what they want first, 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.

In short, in a text or a speech, if you quickly and securely engage the audience’s interest, any significant missteps later on will be muted, if not completely counteracted.
There is of course nothing new in this idea. It is just another way of saying that for best effect, you should write or speak starting from your audience’s point of view. Nevertheless, Yaffe’s Law is revolutionary because its new formulation focuses attention on this fundamental principle of persuasive communication as never before.
Applying the principle implies that you know the audience’s point of view. If you are inclined to think that this is virtually impossible because point of view can change so very much from subject to subject and audience to audience, you would be making a serious mistake.
In most cases, readers or listeners share a single overriding concern: Will this text or presentation sufficiently reflect my interests and apprehensions that I should pay any attention to it? They want this question answered virtually instantaneously; otherwise they will stop reading or stop listening.
Therefore, your first job, even before deciding what you want to say, is to determine what your audience wants to hear. In other words, give them what they want first, i.e. a positive answer to this universal question. If you then continue positively answering it, your audience will follow you almost anywhere.
Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate how the idea works.

A written example

Below, the “Original” shows a text as it might have been written without Yaffe’s Law. The “Revision” shows how it actually was written with Yaffe’s Law.


A piece of electronic equipment installed in automobiles could allow insurance companies to monitor the driving behavior of their customers.

Each time a motorist uses the car, the device will record the roads being traveled and the time of the journey, and send the information via satellite to the insurance company.
With this data, the company will be able to calculate the insurance premium for each individual journey based on the relative risk of crashes on the different roads at different times of the day. The motorist will receive a monthly or quarterly “usage statement,” similar to a telephone bill, itemizing the insurance cost for each use of the car.
By agreeing to the system, motorists could save hundreds of dollars on their automobile insurance.
Because of the lower risk of crashes, trips on superhighways will cost less per kilometer than on city roads, while trips on country roads will also cost less per kilometer than on city roads because . . . . (the text continues)

Motorists could save hundreds of dollars on their automobile insurance by allowing their driving habits to be monitored by a satellite-tracking device installed in the vehicle.

Each time a motorist uses the car, the device will record the roads being traveled and the time of the journey, and send the information to the insurance company.
The company will then calculate the insurance premium based on an assessment of the relative risk of crashes on the different roads at different times of the day. Motorists will receive a monthly or quarterly “usage statement,” similar to a telephone bill, giving the insurance cost for each journey.
Because of the lower risk of crashes, trips on superhighways will cost less per kilometer than on city roads, while trips on country roads will also cost less per kilometer than on city roads because . . . . (the text continues)

The “Original” was clearly written from the point of view of the insurance industry. However, simply moving the fourth paragraph of the "Original" to the first paragraph of the “Revision” charges everything. Who wouldn’t want to know how to save hundreds of dollars on their automobile insurance?

By giving the readers what they want first, a text that might have been of interest only to “techno-nerds” suddenly becomes interesting to virtually everyone. Moreover, even if the rest of the text is not superbly written, people will probably continue reading anyhow, because it is in their interest to do so.

A spoken example

With regard to Yaffe’s Law, the written word and the spoken word are exactly the same. Nevertheless, speaking allows use of techniques that simply would not work on the printed page.

The following speech was delivered on the subject of integrity in politics. Once again, the “Original” shows how it might have been written without Yaffe’s Law. The “Revision” shows how it actually was written with Yaffe’s Law.


I want to talk to you this evening about a man I admire very much. His name is Julius Nyerere and he was the first president of Tanzania after it gained independence from Britain in 1961.

Julius Nyerere was born in 1922 in Butiama, a small village in what was then Tanganyika. He was the son of Nyerere Burito, a Zanaki tribal chief. At that time schools in Tanganyika were in very short supply. Julius began attending Government Primary School at the age of 12, which he completed in three years instead of the standard four. He did equally well in secondary school and won a scholarship to Makerere University in Uganda, then the only university in all of East Africa.
When he returned to Tanganyika, he worked for three years as a secondary school teacher of biology and English before winning a scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he obtained a Master of Arts Degree in history and economics. This is also where he began developing the ideas and tactics that ultimately helped him lead Tanganyika to independence from Britain and become the country’s first president.
Unlike many other independence movements, Nyerere achieved independence without a single drop of blood being shed. (The speech continues)


We live in a cynical world where the values of truth, honesty and integrity seem to be in short supply. We are therefore always looking for examples of such values in action, especially with regard to politicians.
I would like to offer you such an example from Africa. You have probably never heard of this man, but for me he stands as a true model of integrity. Can you guess who he might be? (Speaker pauses a few moments). No, it is not Nelson Mandela, as I imagine many of you were thinking. However, I am certain Mr. Mandela would be more than pleased to be considered in the same light as this person.
His name is Julius Nyerere. Julius Nyerere was the man who led then Tanganyika, today called Tanzania, to independence from Britain in 1961. Unlike many other independence movements, this one succeeded without a single drop of blood being shed.
I had the privilege of living two years in Tanzania shortly after independence. Being a city boy, for me Tanzania was quite a revelation. I virtually lived in a mud hut, suffered through a drought, saw leprosy, and experienced both malaria and dysentery. All of these things affected me. But getting to know Julius Nyerere as a political leader was truly a life-changing experience.
When Nyerere became head of state, he was so popular that he could easily have taken on the trappings of a king or potentate. But he did exactly the opposite. He chose to live very modestly, because that was his nature.
More importantly, he inspired confidence in everyone, and never betrayed that confidence, because that also was his nature. He of course had political enemies, but they were critical of certain of his ideas and policies—never the man. The worst I ever heard anyone say about him was, “President Nyerere is doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons.” (The speech continues)

At this point the speaker could insert all the information about Nyerere’s background and education, which seemed so tedious in the “Original”. Why? Because instead of tedious, the audience would now find it instructive and integral to understanding the man in whom their interest has been effectively ignited.

So does Yaffe’s Law pardon poor writing and poor speaking? Absolutely not!

Poor writing is still poor writing, and poor speaking is still poor speaking, so you must constantly be alert not to fall into bad habits.

On the other hand, by strongly focusing your attention on giving the audience what they want first, when you start giving them what you want, it will be in a context that appeals to their most basic instincts. This, of course, is what persuasive communication is really all about.

The Creative Methodology for the Classroom course can be viewed here.
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