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.