One Simple Blogging Rule to Keep You Out of Trouble

By Gregory Ciotti

Blogging is great for reaching a wide audience. The larger the audience, though, the more likely you’ll draw the wrong kind of attention. Flame wars, lawsuits, bad PR, angry real-life relations… your blog can get you into all sorts of trouble. Even worse, the more popular your blog becomes, the more often you’ll have to deal with this sort of negative attention. Thankfully, there’s one hard and fast rule you can use to keep your blog from getting you into needless trouble:

Never post anything you wouldn’t say in person.

It may seem simple, but it works in many different situations. Just imagine that the person or people to whom your post would be particularly relevant are going to see it. Complaining about your job? Assume your supervisor and coworkers are going to read it. Reviewing a local diner? Assume it will be read by the owner. Criticizing a fellow blogger? Assume he or she will catch wind of it.

What’s the point of it all? The point is that many bloggers become so engrossed in standing on their personal soap boxes that they forget others are listening to them. By taking the possible impact of your post into consideration, you’re less likely to say something inconsiderate or offensive. Others may still take offense, especially if you’re saying something negative, but they’re less likely to retaliate if you phrase your remarks politely, the same way you might if they were standing right in front of you.

Note that this rule only helps those of us who would otherwise practice prudence and restraint vis-à-vis the subjects of our blogging. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t mind being openly rude, you’ll probably get in trouble anyway, blog or no blog. 😉



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24 Responses to “One Simple Blogging Rule to Keep You Out of Trouble”

  • Sandra

    This is a great rule of thumb for people in so many venues. The workplace, church choir, neighbors, media (step back from the mikes). In todays ear of super fast response to everything, you’d better think before you pen.

    You can tell it like it is, without being offensive. But sometimes, it just comes out that we. So, let people know that they may be offended, or disagree with your perspective on a topic and it’s okay.

    (or if you want to be a smartie, just tell them to start a blog and post what they want) – don’t be surprised if they do.

    Thanks for the great reminder.

  • Aminul Islam Sajib

    True! Blogging shouldn’t be offensive — no matter if that’s for money or not.

  • chris

    Some very good points, worth taking into consideration. I, personally, make a point to never call people out by name and i try not to start fires. I guess the important thing is that it’s words, and noithing more. I’ve certainly learned to deal with that. I don’t need to instigate trouble or hurt people’s feelings, but I’ll argue my point if need be and not play the antagonizer for the sake of argument. i want love and fruitfulness and success and peace. But i suppose i answer attacks in the only forum my answers will be heard and if that is a flaw, then I will correct it and swallow my pride. i guess i know what i am and what i’m not. so you’re right, there is no need to give people bad feelings. after all we’re all just people and fragile and full of ego and insecurity, trying to contribute. So I’ll take this advice and thank you for it.

  • SEO Genius

    An obvious however sometimes missed point here. Thanks 🙂

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  • Mary Emma Allen

    Good rule. Also like the comment that mentioned including comments.

  • Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker

    Very similiar to my rule about gossip. Never say anything behind a person’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.

  • Eli

    Great rule – perfectly true.

  • Stephen

    It is true that controversy can drive traffic, Edward, and there are plenty of prominent bloggers who use it for that purpose. However, I’d characterize it as a risky tactic that could easily backfire on you.

  • Average Joe Blogger

    Another good rule of thumb is to not criticize and rant unless you can back it up with some kind of facts. It’s harder to flamed or caught in awkward situations if you can back up your opinion with something factual.

  • Dean Rieck at The Freelance Pro

    The breathless nature of blogging and the Internet in general can lead to all sorts of problems.

    I’d add a sub-rule: Set your post aside for a while before posting it.

    I’ve learned this from e-mail, where the same rules apply. Too often you can say something in haste that you regret the moment you send it off. Setting it aside for an hour or more gives you time to re-think what to say and how to say it. It’s saved me a number of times when dealing with freelance clients.

  • Daniel

    Sean, might be obvious, but a lot of people forget it too often :).

  • How To Cope With Pain

    How about making this mandatory reading for commenters also :).

    Recently got a comment IN CAPS saying I “STOLE” a photo and REMOVE IT. I emailed the guy, saying I meant no harm, thought it was a generic photo. If he’d tell me which one it was, I’d remove it or give credit.

    Wouldn’t you know he preferred a link.

  • Scoot

    This is very wise counsel. We all need to practice this when talking to people outside the blog world. I would go so far as to make it a rule not to talk about someone before talking to them personally first. And there is always a way to say what you want without being RUDE!

  • Edward Dowd

    Hey, Can’t a “flame war” (funny name) get good PR. I mean dooced.com was made popular because she was blabbering about coworkers. If you start controversy that becomes popular, you can get traffic. Dvorak does that for getting press when he bashes Apple.

  • Sean

    LOl, yeah thats obvious.

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