Errors in reverse
In Gripping Reading, All The Way Through, the secretGeek points out that the most important part of an error message is often right at the end, long after people with homes to go to have stopped reading.
"I've said before that you have to read the error messages. I'll add now that you have to read the entire error message."As Joel Spolsky says in User Interface Design for Programmers
"...experience shows that the more words you put on that dialog box, the fewer people will actually read it."So why not design error messages with this in mind? Put the most salient fact - the actual cause - in the first clause of the message. Then you can follow with all the other things that went pear-shaped as a result.