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The Latin adverb sic ("thus", "just as"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written") [1] inserted after a quoted word or passage indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed or translated exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous, archaic, or otherwise nonstandard spelling. It also applies to any surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might be likely interpreted as an error of transcription.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Adverb word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, determiner, clause, preposition, or sentence. Adverbs typically express manner, place, time, frequency, degree, level of certainty, etc., answering questions such as how?, in what way?, when?, where?, and to what extent?. This function is called the adverbial function, and may be realized by single words (adverbs) or by multi-word expressions.

A transcription error is a specific type of data entry error that is commonly made by human operators or by optical character recognition programs (OCR). Human transcription errors are commonly the result of typographical mistakes; putting one’s fingers in the wrong place while touch typing is the easiest way to make this error. Electronic transcription errors occur when the scan of some printed matter is compromised or in an unusual font – for example, if the paper is crumpled, or the ink is smudged, the OCR may make transcription errors when reading.


The usual usage 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 square brackets to indicate that it is not part of the quoted matter.

Sic may also be used derisively by the proofreader, to call attention to the original writer's spelling mistakes or erroneous logic, or to show general disapproval or dislike of the material. [2]

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. [3]

The adverb sic, meaning "intentionally so written", first appeared in English circa 1856. [4] It is derived from the Latin adverb sīc, which means "so, thus, in this manner". [5]

According to the Oxford English Dictionary , the verbal form of sic, meaning "to mark with a sic", emerged in 1889, E. Belfort Bax 's work in The Ethics of Socialism being an early example. [6]

<i>Oxford English Dictionary</i> Premier historical dictionary of the English language

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press. It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The second edition, comprising 21,728 pages in 20 volumes, was published in 1989.

False etymologies

On occasion, sic has been misidentified as an acronym (and therefore sometimes misspelled with full stops/periods): "s.i.c." is said to stand for "spelled in context", "said in copy", "spelling is correct", "spelled incorrectly", and other such folk etymology phrases. [7] These are all incorrect and are simply backronyms from sic.

An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components of a phrase or a word, usually individual letters and sometimes syllables.

Folk etymology or reanalysis – sometimes called pseudo-etymology, popular etymology, or analogical reformation – is a change in a word or phrase resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familiar one. The form or the meaning of an archaic, foreign, or otherwise unfamiliar word is reanalyzed as resembling more familiar words or morphemes. Rebracketing is a form of folk etymology in which a word is broken down or "bracketed" into a new set of supposed elements. Back-formation, creating a new word by removing or changing parts of an existing word, is often based on folk etymology.

A backronym, or bacronym, is a constructed phrase that purports to be the source of a word that is an acronym. Backronyms may be invented with either serious or humorous intent, or they may be a type of false etymology or folk etymology.

Modern usage

Use of sic greatly increased in the mid-twentieth century. [8] 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. [2] The "benighted use" as a form of ridicule, deserved or otherwise, has been cited as a major factor in this increase. [2]

The "immoderate" use of sic has created some controversy, leading some editors, including bibliographical scholar Simon Nowell-Smith and literary critic Leon Edel, to speak out against it. [9]

Conventional usage

Sic, in its bracketed form, is most often inserted into quoted or reprinted material 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.). [2] [10] 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. [2] [11]

To denote archaisms and dialect

A sic may show that an uncommon or archaic expression is reported faithfully, [12] 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. [8] [11] [13] The appearance of a bracketed sic after the word analyse in a book review led Bryan A. Garner to comment, "... all the quoter (or overzealous editor) demonstrated was ignorance of British usage". [2]


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. [14] [15]

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'". [16]

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. [2] The following example from The Times of London demonstrates how the interpolation of sic can discredit a quoted statement.[ improper synthesis? ]

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." [17]

"Ironic use"

Occasionally a writer places [sic] after his 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. [18] Bryan A. Garner dubbed this use of sic "ironic", providing the following example from Fred Rodell 's 1955 book Nine Men: [2]

[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]. [19] 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. [11] However, italicization is common in the United States, where authorities including APA Style insist upon it. [20]

Because sic is not an abbreviation, placing a full stop/period inside the brackets after the word sic is erroneous, [21] [22] although one style guide suggests styling it as a parenthetical sentence only when used after a complete sentence, like so: (Sic). [19]


Use of sic has been noted for its potential to bring about 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 [23]  a concern because English is the lingua franca for medicine. [16] 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, the editor in chief of AJR, Lee F. Rogers, 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: [16]

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. [2] [24]


Alternatively, to show both the original and the suggested correction (as they often are in palaeography), one may give the actual form, followed by recte, then the corrected form, in brackets. The Latin adverb recte means rightly. [25]

An Iraqi battalion has consumed [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. [26]


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' [27]

See also

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  1. 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.)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Garner, Bryan A. (2001). "sic". A dictionary of modern legal usage (2nd ed.). USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 806–807. ISBN   978-0-19-514236-5.
  3. "sic, adv. (and n.)" Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition 1989. Oxford University Press
  4. 3sic. Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary . Merriam-Webster, 2003. ISBN   0-87779-809-5, ISBN   978-0-87779-809-5. (p.1156)
  5. Cassell's Latin Dictionary
  6. "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
  7. e.g. "" . Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  8. 1 2 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
  9. 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
  10. "Grammar and Style." USD History Guide for Writing Research Papers. Department of History, University of South Dakota. 6/12/2009
  11. 1 2 3 William Coyle and Joe Law (2009). Research Papers. Cengage Learning. p. 72. ISBN   0-547-19081-6.
  12. Carillo, Jose A. (March 6, 2010). "The role of the bracketed 'sic' in English prose". The Manila Times . Archived from the original on May 27, 2012.
  13. Remero, Donald (May 9, 2010). "Quoting British / American English". Archived from the original on October 13, 2010.
  14. "Poor Grammar Makes Me Sic Sweatshirts & Hoodies". CafePress. Accessed: October 1, 2010.
  15. "Somewhat Topical Ecards". Retrieved October 1, 2010.
  16. 1 2 3 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.
  17. Ashworth, Anne (2006-06-21). "Chain reaction: Warehouse". The Times . Archived from the original on September 29, 2006. Retrieved 2016-05-20.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  18. H. W. Fowler (2001) A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford : Oxford University Press, p. 807. ISBN   978-0-19-953534-7
  19. 1 2 Jessen, Edward W. (2000). California Manual of Style: A Handbook of Legal Style for California Courts and Lawyers (4th edition) (PDF). pp. 132–133. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
  20. "Parentheses, Ellipses, and Brackets" (PDF). Writing Center. Johnson County Community College. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-08-31. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  21. Quotations . The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Accessed: October 2, 2010
  22. Wilson, Kenneth G. (1993). "sic (adv.)". The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Columbia University Press . Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  23. 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. Archived from the original on 2011-10-04.
  24. "Style Q&A: Quotations and Dialogue". The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Retrieved 28 September 2018. In paragraph 13.7, in the section on permissible changes to quotations, CMOS says, ‘Obvious typographic errors may be corrected silently (without comment or sic) unless the passage quoted is from an older work or a manuscript source where idiosyncrasies of spelling are generally preserved.’
  25. Janet Fairweather. Liber Eliensis . Boydell Press, 2005. ISBN   1-84383-015-9, ISBN   978-1-84383-015-3. (p. xxix)
  26. Bruce Gustafson. JSCM Style Sheet . Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, 2 January 2010.
  27. "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.