United States: 2017 Practical Advice Series, Part II: The Tongue Is An Evil Serpent And Email And Tweets Are Even Worse

Last Updated: January 9 2017
Article by Howard A. Mavity

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:28

I've commenced this series because employers and employees seem to make many of the same mistakes over and over again, and technology has created new ways for one to screw up. On some level, most of us are aware that we sometimes say something that we should not have said. An individual may harm a relationship or even worse, one may create evidence of real or perceived unlawful acts. 

Given our tumultuous 2016, one has to start by using Tweets as an example of ways to get oneself in trouble. My readers may not have noticed, but our President-elect uses Tweets as his main communication tool, which concerns even many of his most ardent supporters. Maybe Mr. Trump is in fact cunningly employing Tweets to create the atmosphere he desires for "deal making," which is one possibility as discussed in a January 2, 2017 Wall Street Journal piece, The Method in Trump's Maddening Communications Habits, but the impression is often one of undisciplined communications. What lessons do we more plebian Tweeters learn?

  • Electronic communications are tone deaf. Even when one carefully proofs and considers the tone of an email or Tweet, the reader may misconceive your message or your tone ... and think that you are angry, cold or an inconsiderate jerk.

So ask yourself, "should this communication be made in person or by telephone?" Convenience is NOT a legitimate reason to text or email a message which requires a human touch.

And some people expect more courtesy and politeness than others, even if you are not trying to be brusque, but are matter of fact or "just stating the rules." THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE!

  • Which of course requires you to actually think about the message before typing it.

And based on my own painful experience, even if you are correct and your anger is "righteous," you will often later regret using your temper, even if it was an intentional use of a tool.

I saw a brief post by a Christian based consultant on anger and his suggestions were sound. Anger is bad when:

(1) it is excited without any sufficient cause.

(2) it transcends the cause, if any cause really exists.

(3)  it is against "the person" rather than the "offence." 

(4) it is attended with the desire of "revenge." That is always wrong.

(5) it is cherished and heightened by reflection.

(6) there is a determination to exact the utmost satisfaction for the injury which has been done.

  • And does the electronic communication method allow you to respond to complex questions requiring nuance?

One of the chief concerns about the Presidential Tweets is whether any domestic or international issue can be treated within 140 characters.

And as an author, I've learned that many readers, sometimes including myself, don't read beyond the first few paragraphs of an article and email. Trust me, even when we're trying to be practical and not verbose, it's often tough for attorneys to cover all of the angles in lawyerly communications. Especially in the Alice in Wonderland of government regulation, many things are not simple and make little sense.  If you really want to struggle with making every word count and predicting and avoiding every misinterpretation of your words, try writing legislation or regulations! Ughh. 

Oh ... you know that rule that if you have to explain that joke, it was a lousy joke? Add a caveat that ANY joke in electronic form is a risk and may be misinterpreted or deemed insensitive to someone somewhere in some group. 

The rule about sleeping on a controversial or angry email, or one you typed late at night while tired or imbibing, should be applied to many communications. The title of a December 28 Wall Street Journal article is instructive:

How to Tweet if You're in Government and Not Donald Trump: Write, Edit, (Maybe) Send.

The article is highly entertaining. The CIA's first Tweet concluded with: "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first Tweet." One cannot make this stuff up!

  • Diamonds are Forever, to quote the classic James Bond song by Shirley Bassey, and so are electronic communications ... as Secretary Clinton learned to her chagrin.

 I'm as hacked off (pun not intended) as anyone about a foreign power hacking into the DNC and other groups' email accounts, BUT I have no pity for Ms. Clinton's bad judgment or for those other individuals who said or did dumb or morally wrong things or "put them in writing." Remember also North Korea's apparent hack of Sony's emails and the near catastrophic (and costly) repercussions?  Rule one – don't do bad things. Rule two – don't put them in writing. Rule three – I was serious about Rule one – this article is not a primer on "how not to get caught."

Fortunately, most commercial removal tools leave some fingerprints, and destruction of evidence can be a felony, such as "obstruction" or at least a basis for costly spoliation claims.  Read the December 21 WSJ piece, U.K. Executive Jailed for Destruction of Evidence in Bribery Case.

  • Further analyzing Ms. Clinton errors, if it's going to look suspect and above the rules, don't do it if, or as trendy folks say, "Be aware of the optics."

And don't do what some folks continue to do ... don't have your assistant (or in Ms. Clinton's situation, your maid) print them if they are unduly sensitive. Go back to my earlier admonition about thinking before you act.

As to the "Expert" level stuff ... write simply, straightforward, in active tense and please, by all that is holy, minimize the use of jargon. Read 19 Banished Words for 2016 for an entertaining but accurate attack on overused or misused words in 2016.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Howard A. Mavity
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.