How to Use Libel vs. Slander Correctly

Written by ehow education editor
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Two of the most commonly misused and misunderstood legal terms are libel and slander. Both terms involve defamation of a person's character, but they are different forms of defamation of character. Legally, there is an important distinction between the two terms, because libel damages are usually assumed, but in the case of slander, the plaintiff must usually prove special damages.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Understand the definition of defamation of character. Defamation of character is the communication of false information stated as a fact which brings harm to an individual or an entity, such as a business, group or government. For it to be defamation, the statement must be delivered in speech or in writing to at least one person other than the victim.

  2. 2

    Learn when to use the term slander. Slander is used when the defamation of character is spoken. This can be person to person or a person speaking to many people.

  3. 3

    Say the term libel when referring to the written defamation of someone's character. Libel is the defamation of an individual's or an entity's character which is published in a written medium, such as a newspaper. However, any written communication can be libelous as long as it's transmitted to a third party.

  4. 4

    Use the libel term when the defamation of character comes from audible media. Now, most courts consider defamation of character made during a radio or television broadcast to also be libel, even though the defamation was spoken.

  5. 5

    Know the absolute defense against libel and slander. There are a number of possible defenses against libel and slander, but the only one which is an absolute defense is truth. If the statement is true, it cannot be considered libel or slander.

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