Slander vs. Libel – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ September 2, 2017/ Uncategorized

slander versus libel

What’s the Difference Between Slander and Libel?

Slander and libel don’t look or sound the same, but their meanings are very similar. Therefore, people confuse the two frequently.

Slander can act as either a noun or a verb that means defamation. Specifically, it means spoken defamation.

  • He keeps spreading lies about me and saying all these terrible things. I’m going to sue him for slander!

Libel can also act as either a noun or a verb that means defamation. However, in this case, it specifically means written defamation.

  • That newspaper published things that damaged my reputation! That’s libel!

Let’s look at a few ways to use these words in your sentences.

Using Slander in a Sentence

When to use slander: Slander is a noun for spoken defamation. In other words, slander is saying something false or malicious that will hurt the reputation of a person or business.

For example:

  • The con artist threatened slander against the restaurant if he didn’t receive free products. He said he would tell everyone that he found a cockroach in his food, even though that was a blatant lie.
  • No one likes that coworker because she keeps on starting rumors full of slander about everyone in the office.

Something slanderous cannot be written. If it does, then it becomes libel. It also must be false information, or true information presented out of context, or in a way to make it seem worse than it really is.

Using Libel in a Sentence

When to use libel: Libel is also a noun describing a type of defamation. It, however, refers specifically to written defamation, or through pictures.

For example:

  • Even though the journalist published only the facts about the CEO, the facts were so incriminating that the CEO threatened to sue for libel in order to make people think the journalist had lied.
  • The author published untrue things about a man accused of murder. Although the man was innocent, the libel of the author made everyone think the man was guilty.

Libel must appear in a permanent form such as published writing. Slander and libel are both equally common and often appear in a legal context.

Remembering Slander vs. Libel

You can use the spelling of these two words to remember which word has which meaning.

Slander starts with the letter s, just like the word spoken. This can help you remember that slander is spoken defamation.

Libel starts with the letters lib, just like the word library. Libraries are filled with writing. This can help you remember that libel is written defamation.

Outside Examples

  • “Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.” –LA Times (this uses the adjective form of the word)
  • If you feel this slander has legs, and if it is having a negative impact on your other relationships, your reputation and your work, you should see a lawyer. These lies might be legally actionable. –Denver Post
  • In its motion to dismiss, the Times complained that libel suits could have a chilling effect by giving subjects the ability to question and demand documents from publications, and noted that Palin wanted to collect extensive information from more than 20 Times employees. –Newsday
  • Now, The Post didn’t discover all of this. But it did its share — and it didn’t stint on the drama along the way. This is very much in a New York newspaper tradition that stretches back to the 1734 criminal libel trial of John Peter Zenger and his New York Weekly Journal — another “rag” that delighted in vexing pompous, sometimes duplicitous politicians.–New York Post

Quiz: Libel vs. Slander

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either libel or slander, in the correct form.

  • I won’t stand for this _______________ against me. If you speak one more lie about me I will seek retribution through the courts!
  • Slander and libel are both bad, but I think ____________ is even worse because it is published in writing and therefore more permanent.
  • The bully gave the victim an offensive nickname which he called him in the hallways of the school. The lawyer plans to argue that the nickname was bad enough to constitute a charge of ___________.
  • You need to fact check your article before we print it. If we print a lie about that company it would be _____________.
  • He trash talks everyone in local politics in all his conversations around town. I’m surprised no one has sued him for ______________ yet.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use slander or libel? These words each refer to different ways of communicating defamation.

  • Slander is malicious or false misrepresentation and occurs through speaking.
  • Libel is the same thing, except rather than being spoken, it occurs through writing.

It is possible to sue someone in the courts for either slander or libel.

Answers from Quiz

  • slander
  • libel
  • slander
  • libel
  • slander