Using examples from the real world can make your writing stronger, more specific, and more believable. So when you’re trying to come up with top-notch content for your blog, website, or e-letter, you might be tempted to call on real life. Well, that’s fine if you’re referencing your own experiences. But it gets a little tricky when you try to incorporate stories from the lives of your friends, family, and coworkers.

Does your mother really want you writing about her ordeal at the gynecologist? Would your college roommate approve of you using him as a model of what too much takeout and beer can do to a body? Would your office mate mind illustrating the cons of wearing too much cologne? Or would these people be shocked and embarrassed to find themselves starring on your blog?

As a writer – blogger, e-newsletter writer, journalist, or book author – you are responsible for protecting the people you talk about. Michael Masterson references his personal experiences with people all the time in Early to Rise. But he is careful to do one of two things first: (1) He gets permission to write about the conversation, e-mail, etc., or (2) he disguises the identities of the people.

[Ed. Note: Check out Michael Masterson’s unedited, uncensored (and sometimes unexpected) ruminations on his blog.]