[sic]

Ever seen “[sic]” in something that you’ve read and not understood what it meant? You’ve come to the right place. Today we’re going to talk about what “[sic]” means and how you can use it to preserve your reputation.

The term “sic” is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “sic erat scriptum,” which means “thus it had been written.” It essentially tells the reader that the writer transcribed a quote exactly as it was written in the original source. By convention, we typically type “sic” in italics and place it in square brackets: [sic].

You’re most likely to see “[sic]” embedded in a quote when the original source contains an error, a word with outdated spelling, faulty logic, or a term that’s no longer politically correct.” By embedding “[sic]” right after the “incorrect” word or term, writers can keep the original wording of a quote but make it clear to the reader that they weren’t the ones who made the “mistake.” For example, imagine that you’re writing a report to summarize the results of a survey and want to include the following participant response as an example:

  • “They supprot the program on paper but don’t actively promote it.”

As you can see, the response contains a typo (i.e., “supprots”). You know that you’re supposed to use the response exactly as it was written by the original participant, but you also don’t want your boss to think that the typo was your mistake. What can you do? Place “[sic]” right after the typo.

  • “They supprot [sic] the program on paper but don’t actively promote it.”

As useful as “[sic]” can be, it’s important to be careful about how you use it. For example, if you’re including several quotes from people who aren’t proficient in English, avoid using “[sic]” repeatedly to call these people out for every single mistake that they made. Instead, preface the quotes with a statement saying that some of the quotes were provided by non-native English speakers and have been written in the report just as they were in the original source. This strategy allows you to tell the reader that the mistakes aren’t yours without highlighting each one.

Have questions about other Latin abbreviations that are used in English writing? Leave us a note in our comments section below and we’ll do our best to incorporate your questions into one of our upcoming posts.

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Writing tip: What “[sic]” means and how to use it
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