The Word ‘Sic’ and How to Use it in Academic Writing
  • 2-minute read
  • 24th July 2014

The Word ‘Sic’ and How to Use it in Academic Writing

If a quotation in your essay contains an error which you want to leave in, you should always follow it with the Latin word ‘sic’. ‘Sic’, meaning ‘thus’, comes from the Latin phrase ‘sic eras scriptum’ meaning ‘thus it was written’.

This demonstrates that you have reproduced the quotation exactly as it was originally written without correcting it. It also shows that your own writing is up to scratch and you haven’t made an error.

When to Use ‘Sic’

If possible, minor errors in quotations should be corrected and the corrections enclosed within square brackets. For example, you might change ‘Their is nothing left to be done’ to ‘[There] is nothing left to be done’.

‘[Sic]’ is to be used when you wish to reproduce a quotation verbatim. Situations when it would be appropriate to retain the error rather than correcting it within square brackets include:

  • Archaic spellings, e.g. ‘happyness’ instead of ‘happiness’
  • Unusual spellings of a common name, e.g. ‘Kristoffer’ instead of ‘Christopher’
  • Whenever you feel you should be faithful to the original text

It is considered bad form to use ‘[sic]’ simply to highlight the minor spelling mistakes or poor grammar of the writer you are quoting. Inappropriate or overzealous use of ‘[sic]’ is something journalists sometimes do to imply a lack of intelligence, particularly when quoting social media!

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How to Use ‘Sic’

It should be enclosed within square brackets and, as it is a word not an abbreviation, should not be followed by a full stop. It should be placed directly after the offending word or error rather than at the end of the sentence. For example,

It was Kristoffer’s [sic] belief that…

If there are multiple errors in a sentence, ‘[sic]’ can be placed at the end.

Most Latin expressions used in writing are italicised, but ‘sic’ doesn’t have to be. Different institutions have different rules about this, so it’s a good idea to check your style guide. One thing to bear in mind is that the square brackets are never italicised.

Comments (4)
Narasinga Rao B
12th May 2018 at 03:28
Why should we use sic in brackets as it is a lengthy process to type..we can use back space to correct the sentence
    Proofed
    12th May 2018 at 09:58
    Hi, Narasinga. 'Sic' is specifically used when you don't want to correct the quotation (e.g. to highlight an error in the original text). If you do need to correct, edit or add to a quotation, you would put the corrected text in square brackets instead. For example: Original: They lost they're way. Error highlighted: They lost they're [sic] way. Error corrected: They lost [their] way. You need to show when you have corrected a quotation, though, as otherwise it could look like you've made a mistake.
    Nathan Kolacia
    30th May 2018 at 09:17
    Trying to be the next Ken M haha?
Richard
19th November 2018 at 21:23
Thanks for info!

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