OK: confession time. I mixed these two up myself the other day, and used the wrong one. I was so excited about thinking up examples for another troublesome pair that I didn’t stop and think. Well, nobody’s perfect! And my penance is to write this post.
Both slander and libel deal with telling lies about somebody. But it’s the medium used to spread these lies that makes the difference.
Slander is the crime, or action, of making a false spoken statement that is detrimental or damaging to a person’s reputation.
Libel is the publication in print of a false statement that is detrimental or damaging to a person’s reputation, or to defame by publishing a libel.
So if you say it, it’s slander: if you print it (or publish it in a form that counts as printing it, like on the internet), it’s libel.
Got that? I have!