One very important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of good communication: making sure what you’re saying is legal.

Most of us know that you’re not allowed to lie about other people and companies. (Your neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, eats catnip!) Or make outrageous claims about your product. (Yummo Snack-ums are so delicious, they make you fly!) And definitely not a combination of those two things. (Eat Yummo Snack-ums and you can fly away from your neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, and her catnip breath!)

But what you may not know is that some industries have rules and regulations so stringent that even completely innocuous-seeming communications can be deemed totally not legal. Example: beer bottle labels.

beer bottles

There is a whole set of legal regulations that beer bottle designs must comply with, and here’s the crazy part: there’s one guy in charge of approving all the beer bottles in the United States.

That man’s name Kent “Battle” Martin, and he approves every beer bottle label for the Tax and Trade Bureau, which means he interprets all the arcane laws that govern what you can and cannot put on a beer bottle label. You have to read this whole article about him because it’s totally fascinating, but here’s a few choice examples of what you cannot put on a beer bottle:

  • “He rejected a beer called Pickled Santa because Santa’s eyes were too “googly” on the label, and labels cannot advertise the physical effects of alcohol. (A less googly-eyed Santa was later approved.)”
  • “He rejected a beer that was marketed as an ‘India Dark Ale,’ a takeoff on the IPA, because it implied the beer was made in India (even though the label had a line with the words ‘Product of Denmark’).”
  • “He rejected a beer called Bad Elf because it featured an ‘Elf Warning,’ suggesting that elves not operate toy-making machinery while drinking the ale. The label was not approved on the grounds that the warning was confusing to consumers.”

There’s a couple lessons here. One, make sure you’re following all the rules that govern your communications-because even though it’s not the most titillating part of good communication, it’s an important part. And two, if you’re not in the beer industry, thank your lucky stars, and go out and make something with a googly-eyed Santa to celebrate.