The Latin adverb sic ("thus"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written") inserted after a quoted word or passage, indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might otherwise be taken as an error of transcription.
The notation's usual purpose is to inform the reader that any errors or apparent errors in quoted material do not arise from errors in the course of the transcription, but are intentionally reproduced, exactly as they appear in the source text. It is generally placed inside brackets to signal that it is not part of the quoted matter.
Sic may also be used derisively, to call attention to the original writer's spelling mistakes or erroneous logic.
|Look up sic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Etymology and historical usage
Though occasionally misidentified as an abbreviated word, sic is a Latin adverb used in English as an adverb, and, derivatively, as a noun and a verb.
On occasion, sic has been misidentified as the acronym "s.i.c." for "spelled in context", "said in copy", "spelling is correct", "spelled incorrectly", and other phrases. These are all backronyms from sic.
Use of sic greatly increased in the mid-twentieth century. For example, in United States state-court opinions before 1944, sic appeared 1,239 times in the Westlaw database; in those from 1945 to 1990, it appeared 69,168 times. The "benighted use" as a form of ridicule, deserved or otherwise, has been cited as a major factor in this increase.
Sic, in its bracketed form, is most often inserted into quoted or reprinted material in order to indicate meticulous accuracy in reproducing the preceding text, despite appearances to the reader of an incorrect or unusual orthography (spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, fact, logic, etc.). Several usage guides recommend that a bracketed sic be used primarily as an aid to the reader, and not as an indicator of disagreement with the source.
To denote archaisms and dialect
A sic may show that an uncommon or archaic expression is reported faithfully, such as when quoting the U.S. Constitution: "The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker ..." Several writing guidebooks discourage its use with regard to dialect, such as in cases of American and British English spelling differences. The appearance of a bracketed sic after the word analyse on a book cover led Bryan A. Garner to comment, "... all the quoter (or overzealous editor) demonstrated was ignorance of British usage."
Various wordplay employing the word sic is possible, arising either from its secondary meaning, "to attack", or from its homophone sick. For example, "Poor grammar makes me [sic]", has been featured on garments and postcards.
In a different vein, a letter to the American Journal of Roentgenology suggested that the overuse of sic as a kind of linguistic discrimination against non-native writers of English "could lead readers to become 'sick of your sic'".
Form of ridicule
The use of sic can be seen as an appeal to ridicule, whether intentional or not, because it highlights perceived irregularities. The application of sic with intent to disparage has been called the "benighted use" because it reflects a "false sense of superiority" in its users. The following example from The Times of London demonstrates how the interpolation of sic can discredit a quoted statement.
Warehouse has been around for 30 years and has 263 stores, suggesting a large fan base. The chain sums up its appeal thus: "styley [sic], confident, sexy, glamorous, edgy, clean and individual, with it's [sic] finger on the fashion pulse."
The "ironic use" of sic
Occasionally a writer places [sic] after his or her own words, to indicate that the language has been chosen deliberately for special effect, especially where the writer's ironic meaning may otherwise be unclear. Bryan A. Garner dubbed this use of sic "ironic", providing the following example from Fred Rodell's 1955 book Nine Men:
[I]n 1951, it was the blessing bestowed on Judge Harold Medina's prosecution [sic] of the eleven so-called "top native Communists," which blessing meant giving the Smith Act the judicial nod of constitutionality.
Where sic follows the quotation, it takes brackets: [sic]. The word sic is usually treated as a loanword that does not require italics, and the style manuals of New Zealand, Australian and British media outlets generally do not require italicisation. However, italicization is common in the United States, where authorities including APA Style insist upon it.
Because sic is not an abbreviation, placing a full stop/period inside the brackets after the word sic is erroneous, although at least one style guide suggests styling it as a parenthetical sentence only when used after a complete sentence, like so: (Sic.)
Use of sic has been noted for its potential to effect linguistic discrimination. A letter written to the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) has been cited in the journal's French counterpart, the Journal de Radiologie, highlighting how apparent prejudices among English-language journals may be causing a higher rejection rate of scholarly papers from francophone authors – a concern because English is the lingua franca for medicine. In the letter, the AJR was criticized for its frequent insertion of sic when publishing letters written by French and Japanese authors even though its correspondence acceptance policy reserved the right of copy-editing, which could therefore have been used beneficially to correct minor English language errors made by non English-speakers. In response, Lee F. Rogers, the Editor in Chief of AJR, apologized for the possible discriminatory interpretation and offered the following explanation for its decision to insert sic on multiple occasions rather than to copy-edit:
It is true that our manuscript editors normally remedy errors in the use of the English language to ensure reader understanding and to avoid embarrassing our non–English-speaking authors. However, because of the seriousness of the allegations addressed, we believed that verbatim quotes were necessary. Under such circumstances, we did not think it correct for us to assume the meaning of misspelled words or the intent of the author of the letter in question.
Some guides, including The Chicago Manual of Style, recommend "quiet copy-editing" (unless where inappropriate or uncertain) instead of inserting a bracketed sic, such as by substituting in brackets the correct word in place of the incorrect word or by simply replacing an incorrect spelling with the correct one.
|Look up recte in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Alternatively, when both the original and the suggested correction are desired to be shown (as they often are in palaeography), one may give the actual form, followed by sic in brackets, followed by the corrected form, preceded by recte, in brackets. The word recte is a Latin adverb meaning "rightly".
An Iraqi battalion has consumed [sic] [recte assumed] control of the former American military base, and our forces are now about 40 minutes outside the city.
According to the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music Style Sheet, there should be no punctuation, for example no colon, before the corrected word when using recte. Sometimes only sic and the correction are in brackets, becoming as in the last example "[sic assumed]" (i.e. recte is omitted).
A third alternative is to follow an error with sic, a comma or colon, "read", and the correct reading, all within square brackets, as in the following example:
'Plan of space alongside Evinghews [sic: read Evening News] Printing Works and overlooked by St. Giles House University Hall'
- Footnotes, 1, in opinion of November 15, 2012 in U.S. v. Bryant, Case No. 11-CR-20034. (Federal judge noted using variant spelling of Bryant's given name, "'sic erat scriptum'" in court document.)
- Bryan A. Garner. "sic." A dictionary of modern legal usage (2nd edition). Oxford University Press US, 2001. ISBN 0-19-514236-5, ISBN 978-0-19-514236-5 (pp.806-807)
- "sic, adv. (and n.)" Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition 1989. Oxford University Press
- 3sic. Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Merriam-Webster, 2003. ISBN 0-87779-809-5, ISBN 978-0-87779-809-5. (p.1156)
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary
- "sic, adv. (and n.)" Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition 1989. Oxford University Press; see also E. Belfort Bax. "On Some Forms of Modern Cant". Commonweal: 7 May 1887. Marxists' Internet Archive: 14 Jan. 2006
- e.g. "Thefreedictionary.com". Retrieved 2014-04-10.
- Bryan A. Garner. The Oxford dictionary of American usage and style. Oxford University Press US, 2000. ISBN 0-19-513508-3, ISBN 978-0-19-513508-4
- Leon Edel's "Introduction" to Henry James Letters (Volume 1, 1843 – 1875). Harvard University Press, 1974. ISBN 0-674-38780-5, ISBN 978-0-674-38780-5
- "Grammar and Style." USD History Guide for Writing Research Papers. Department of History, University of South Dakota. 6/12/2009
- William Coyle and Joe Law (2009). Research Papers. Cengage Learning. p. 72. ISBN 0-547-19081-6.
- Carillo, Jose A. (March 6, 2010). "The role of the bracketed 'sic' in English prose". The Manila Times.
- Remero, Donald (May 9, 2010). "Quoting British / American English". ieosetta.com.
- "Poor Grammar Makes Me Sic Sweatshirts & Hoodies". CafePress. Accessed: October 1, 2010.
- "Somewhat Topical Ecards". someecards.com. Retrieved October 1, 2010.
- Arrivé, Lionel (2001). "Try Writing It in French or in Japanese". American Journal of Roentgenology 176 (2): 548. doi:10.2214/ajr.176.2.1760548. PMID 11159116.
- Ashworth, Anne (2006-06-21). "Chain reaction: Warehouse". The Times. Retrieved 2007-01-06.
- H. W. Fowler. "(sic)." A dictionary of modern English usage. Oxford University Press US. Reprinted: 2009. First Published: 1926. ISBN 0-19-953534-5, ISBN 978-0-19-953534-7
- Jessen, Edward W. (2000). California Manual of Style: A Handbook of Legal Style for California Courts and Lawyers (4th edition) (PDF). pp. 132–133 accessdate=2015–08–10.
- Parentheses, Ellipses, and Brackets. Writing Center, Johnson County Community College. Accessed: 19 November 2014.
- Quotations. The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Accessed: October 2, 2010
- Wilson, Kenneth G. (1993). "sic (adv.)". The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Columbia University Press. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- Arrivé, L; Dono, P; Lewin, M; Dahan, H; Monnier-Cholley, L; Tubiana, JM (December 2001). "Taux de publication des travaux originaux présentés oralement lors des journées françaises de radiologie 1996" [Publication rate of papers originally presented at the national french congress of radiology in 1996]. Journal de Radiologie (in French) 82 (12): 1719–22. PMID 11917637.
- "Quotations". The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Accessed: January 14, 2012
- Janet Fairweather. Liber Eliensis. Boydell Press, 2005. ISBN 1-84383-015-9, ISBN 978-1-84383-015-3. (p. xxix)
- Bruce Gustafson. JSCM Style Sheet. Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, 2 January 2010.
- Larry D. Christiansen. "Introduction" (Guidelines)
- "Item 26 - 'Plan of space alongside Evinghews [sic: read Evening News] Printing Works and overlooked by St. Giles House University Hall', [Edinburgh]". University of Strathclyde Archives. Retrieved 19 November 2014.