What is “Sic”?

Grammar mistakes make me (SIC).

When a cat becomes tangled in the window blinds, how does she maintain her arrogant stare? What about when she slips and falls off furniture, lands on her feet, and then prances away as if it were all part of the master plan? What is with that attitude?

I meant to do that, I’ll have it be known
I did it on purpose, for plans of my own,
Since you’re just a human and I am a cat,
I thought I ought to mention that I meant to do that.

Aha! Songwriter Catherine Faber finally puts the cat’s perspective in terms we can understand. It wasn’t a coincidence that the cat knocked the glass of water off the table. He didn’t misjudge the distance from one bookshelf to the next one. He was simply enacting a plan, one too complex for a mere human to understand. Actually, if cats could write, they would probably use the adverb sic a lot. Let’s learn about that word.

Sic comes from a Latin term that meant “so, thus, or in this way.” When writers quote a source that includes an error, they might insert sic after the error in brackets or parentheses. Sic lets readers know that the writer is aware of the error and that it appeared that way in the original document. Typically, the types of errors that might call for a sic are misspellings, grammatical errors, or punctuation mistakes. Would you like to see some examples?

“There is one thing, Emma, which a man can always do, if he chuses [sic], and that is, his duty; not by manoeuvring and finessing, but by vigour and resolution.” ―Jane Austen, Emma

“If you dont [sic] say what you want, what’s the sense of writing?” ―Jack Kerouac, Vanity of Duluoz

In the first example, sic alerts the reader that “chuses” is how “chooses” was spelled in the source text. The second example signals that the writer is not accidentally omitting the apostrophe. Without sic, a reader might wonder if the writer misquoted the source or made a typing mistake. In both examples, sic puts the reader’s doubts to rest.

It’s important to remember, however, that using sic can sometimes make a writer seem snarky or contemptuous. Avoid using sic when it’s obvious that the error is intentional, or explain in the text that you are quoting a source exactly as written. When you do use sic, make sure the readers don’t have to wonder what the error is.

“Vermont ‘turned out to have the same rate of (non-) circulation as virtually every other circulation study to be found in the literature, beginning with the famous Pittsburgh Study from 1973 [sic] conducted by Allen Kent.’” —Amy Fry, “Conventional Wisdom or Faulty Logic? The Recent Literature on Monograph Use and E-book Acquisition”

The last example is not obvious. The writer seems to be indicating that the date of the study is incorrect, but a clearer explanation—as well as the correct date—would be more helpful to readers.

From a kitten’s book of etiquette, this lesson I take
You don’t have to be embarrassed when you make a mistake
You pull yourself together, and you brush off your hat,
And tell the watching crowd, “you know, I meant to do that!”

Take a lesson from “the kitten’s book of etiquette.” If you intentionally include misspellings, incorrect facts, or faulty grammar when you quote literature, use sic to let you readers know that the error isn’t yours.

The post What is “Sic”? appeared first on Grammarly Blog.

from Grammarly Blog https://www.grammarly.com/blog/what-is-sic/


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