Sunday, November 03, 2019

Getting Off On Punctuation ?

There are many twisted variants of, "If you don't have something nice to say...."
Here's a new one. "If you don't have anything nice to pen about anybody...use a question mark."

Apparently, a question mark can turn an offensive and otherwise actionable --or defamatory-- utterance into an offensive but innocent query.

Legal bloggers Lee. S. Brennan and Michael C. Godino (with special kudos to Josh McWhorter), explain some of the grosser* (?) points of how James Woods got off a defamation charge in the interesting case of Boulger vs Woods.

Precautionary punctuation works on Tweets, too.

Writing for the law firm Charles Russell Speechlys LLP,  legal blogger Claire Greaney, discusses privacy and defamation on Twitter, and cleverly appends a protective question mark on "Roodunnit?"


If everyone lards their otherwise intentionally defamatory statements with interrogation points, the Courts' presumption of ambiguity may go away.

The best defence (UK) or defense (USA) is to be very sure that offensive revelations are true.

Venable LLP has a blog about that, too.

Venable's legal bloggers Lee S. Brenner and Matthew J. Busch provide good advice for investigative journalists and less than malicious publishers.

In conclusion, to quote another proverb, "Honesty is the best policy."

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

"grosser" was used as the antonym of "finer", and was chosen purely for self-amusement.

PS. If one has characters to spare, and a question mark doesn't make sense,  it is always wise to liberally sprinkle salacious sentences with the word "allegedly".


  1. Or make statements such as, "Surely no one actually believes that Senator Phoghorn accepts bribes." The audience will tend to remember the allegation more clearly than the denial.

  2. Good one! Well in the tradition of "Friends, Romans, Countrymen... I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him"

  3. Yeah, I thought of that, too. Great example.