The doctor sat back. ‘Fairly straightforward,’ he said, thinking quickly. ‘A case of mortis portalis tackulatum with complications.’

‘What’s that mean?’ said Chidder.

In layman’s terms,’ the doctor sniffed, ‘he’s as dead as a doornail.’

‘What are the complications?’

The doctor looked shifty. ‘He’s still breathing,’ he said. ‘Look, his pulse is nearly humming and he’s got a temperature you could fry eggs on.’ He hesitated, aware that this was probably too straightforward and easily understood; medicine was a new art on the Disc, and wasn’t going to get anywhere if people could understand it.

‘Pyrocerebrum ouerf culinaire,’ he said, after working it out in his head. 

Terry Pratchett, Pyramids.

If you were the greatest virologist in the world and discovered what the world desperately needs right now – a cure for COVID, but only spoke a Klingon-Latin blend of languages, the world would still be at peril. We cannot expect our clients, with their busy lives, to learn medical, coding, or economic jargon, legalese, or whatever variant of “mortis portalis” you use among colleagues. Yes, even if they badly need what we can do for them. Yes, even if talking like that is the only precise way of saying it. Precise gibberish is still gibberish. 

When you are talking/writing to customers, make sure to learn their language and speak in terms they can understand, accept and follow. Skip clarity, and your message just may be mortis portalis tackulatum.


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