Information Services Office   4.5.2012

397

 
Newsletter No. 397 > Style Speaks > Getting sic right

Getting sic right

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One often comes across sic (traditionally in italics and between parentheses) in a quoted passage like this:

The mayor was heard to have said, 'Italian immigrants have done an artful (sic) lot for this city in its early days.'

It might have created in the reader's mind that sic is employed to signify a mistake in the source but nonetheless preserved in the quote. In this sense, sic confirms the accuracy of the quotation despite its blatant inappropriateness, or factual mistake:

'The Norman conquest took place in 1072 (sic).' [the year should be 1066]

In fact, the word sic means so or thus in Latin. Its appearance after a quoted word or phrase serves as an aside from the writer or reporter that 'Yes, I do mean it.' or 'Yes, he did say that.' It is not confined to signifying wrong usage and may be used as a device to call attention to the unconventional or idiosyncratic use of a word, as in:

The stupidity demonstrated by the public officers in the handling of this matter is very enlightening (sic) to the public.

The Chicago Manual of Style advises that obvious typographical errors or mis-spelled words may just be corrected silently without the company of sic.

Editor

www.iso.cuhk.edu.hk/english/features/style-speaks/

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