How to Use [Sic] in a Quote

Summary

Use sic in quoted text to indicate that a spelling or grammatical mistake comes from the source material (and is not introduced by you). Sic, which means “so” in Latin and is translated to mean “intentionally so written,” signifies that text has been reproduced exactly from the original, including any unusual spellings or unexpected turns of phrase. Place sic right after the error.

Examples
  • In a letter from 1909, she writes, “What I detest over all else is hipocracy [sic].”
  • The secretary confirmed the launch of “a pre-emptier [sic] strike.”
  • She said there were “plenty of squid [sic] in the sea.”

Sic, which comes from Latin, is traditionally italicized in formal texts. Also, prefer to enclose sic in square brackets in academic and other formal writing. Parentheses are generally used in news copy.

When is sic used?

Use the word sic to indicate that a quote has been reproduced exactly, including any grammatical or spelling errors. Sic, which in Latin means “so” and is loosely translated as “intentionally so written,” tells the reader that the error was in the original text (and has not been made by you).

Examples
  • On his forearm was a tattoo that read, “Lifes [sic] beautiful.”
  • They are looking for a proofreader who’s “good at spotting typoes [sic].”
  • In her diary, the eight-year-old Maya wrote, “This morning I had a sudden epiphamy [sic].”

Sic can also indicate an unusual spelling or unexpected turn of phrase in the original.

Examples
  • The new restaurant, called Ante Meridian [sic], is open from midnight to noon.
  • Their tagline reads, “Our shoes heel [sic] your feet.”
  • This new offering, called The Lonelyness [sic] Workshop, will (they claim) help participants move from a life of “lonely-ness” to “only-ness.”
Note

It is not always necessary to point out a grammatical error in quoted text. Unless important, consider simply correcting the error instead of reproducing it and writing sic to highlight it.

Example
  • Unnecessary: She has published a paper on “plural [sic] effusion.”
    Better: She has published a paper on pleural effusion.

Such silent editing is entirely acceptable. (Drawing attention to someone’s unintentional errors or typos can seem needlessly judgmental.) If you think it necessary to indicate that a change has been made to quoted text, simply enclose the altered text in square brackets.

Examples
  • She has published a paper on pl[e]ural effusion.
  • The making of the gooseberry jam and a good recipe for orange wine interests her more than all the marchings and countermarchings, the man[oe]uvres and diplomacies, going on the world over.
    Jane Austen, The Letters of Jane Austen (Edited by Sarah Chauncy Woolsey) (1908)

Establishing authenticity does become important with older manuscripts. When content is reproduced from an older text with unusual or incorrect spelling and grammar, an editor will use sic after the original spelling, instead of making a silent correction.

Example
  • In their own day, buccaneers were usually called privateers; the word buccaneer came into use after the publication, in 1684, of Bucaniers [sic] of America, the English translation of De Americaensche zee-rovers, by the Dutchman Alexander Esquemelin (or Exquemelin), whose work was a fecund source of tales of these men.
    — “Buccaneer,” Encyclopedia Britannica (Accessed September 8, 2022)

Sic is used not simply to point out grammatical errors but also to note that quoted matter has been printed verbatim without any editorial changes. Tweets are often quoted in the news with sic to show they haven’t been edited.

Example
  • One of the tweets the music star liked read: ‘Prayers out to Naya Rivera. I hope she is ok (sic). Another of the messages said: ‘Praying they find Naya Rivera. She wrote this 6 days ago (sic).’
    — “Big Sean Likes Tweets Praying for Naya Rivera’s Safety,” AP News (July 10, 2020)

Sic can also indicate an unusual or objectionable turn of phrase. In the following passage, for example, the New York Times notes that the generic masculine pronoun appears in the original letter quoted from its archives and has been reprinted without editing.

Example
  • In 1944, Chandler responded in ‘The Simple Art of Murder’: It is always a matter of who writes the stuff, and what he [sic] has in him [sic] to write it with.
    — “Letters to the Editor,” New York Times (November 11, 2016)

Where is sic placed?

To avoid ambiguity, place sic directly after the word or phrase indicated as being reproduced exactly.

Examples
  • Incorrect: The little girl yelled, “I sawed it happen!”[sic]
    Correct: The little girl yelled, “I sawed [sic] it happen!”
  • Incorrect: This new café, called Lazt Orders [sic], opens after everywhere else closes.
    Correct: This new café, called Lazt [sic] Orders, opens after everywhere else closes.
  • Incorrect: In a now deleted tweet, the then president-elect called the seizure of the drone “an unpresidented act” [sic].
    Correct: In a now deleted tweet, the then president-elect called the seizure of the drone “an unpresidented [sic] act.”

If sic refers to a word at the end of a quote, place sic inside the closing quotation mark.

Example
  • An occasional feature, ‘The Den of Villany [sic],’ was a forum for Douglass to comment on discrimination in American society.
    — “The North Star (American Newspaper),” Encyclopedia Britannica (Accessed September 8, 2022)

Brackets or parentheses around sic?

The word sic may be enclosed in either square brackets or parentheses (round brackets). In formal writing (such as academic texts), sic is usually enclosed in square brackets rather than parentheses.

Examples
  • Their joint works were issued as Poems of Alice and Phoebe Carey [sic] (1850).
    — “Cary Sisters (American Poets),” Encyclopedia Britannica (Accessed September 22, 2022)
  • According to David, ‘ID/creationists’ see a difference ‘between mirco-evolution [sic] (natural selection) and macro-evolution (goo to you by way of the zoo).’
    — Carl Zimmer, “Of Zoos and Polls,” National Geographic (October 15, 2005)
  • A few months later, in January 1849, an article added, ‘After all that has been said against the moustache, we would not condemn a man as a confirmed villian [sic] because he wears a long black or red whisk between his nose and mouth.’
    — Evelyn Lamb, “The Mighty Moustaches of the Early Scientific American Archives,” Scientific American (November 7, 2012)

Using square brackets allows for consistency, since editorial interpolations generally are enclosed in brackets. In news copy, parentheses often enclose sic, presumably because they are less disruptive than brackets.

Examples
  • Those behind Nuremberg NZ want people like me to have ‘thier (sic) day of reckoning.’
    — “I Won’t Let Them Silence Me,” Guardian (January 9, 2022)
  • Gowerton Primary School called Piers Morgan a ‘facist (sic) pig.’
    — “Gowerton Primary School Sorry for ‘Fascist Pig’ Tweet,” BBC News (June 7, 2019)
  • The quotation on the title page of Holt’s volume reads, ‘Them insecs (sic) eats up every blessed green thing that do grow, and us farmers starves.’
    — “Letters: Man Bites Insect,” New York Times (February 24, 2008)
Note

Style manuals followed in academic and book editing, including the Chicago Manual of Style, APA Publication Manual, MLA Handbook, AMA Manual of Style, and New Oxford Style Manual (Hart’s Rules) recommend using square brackets around sic. Parentheses are generally used instead in news copy. The AP Stylebook (followed in U.S. journalism) now recommends against the use of sic altogether, but when it did suggest using sic, it enclosed the word in parentheses.

Is sic italicized?

The word sic, which comes from Latin, is traditionally italicized. In formal texts, prefer to italicize the term and enclose it in brackets.

Examples
  • The reviewer noted that he “found the paper unwhelming [sic].”
  • Henry VIII needed his doctors. An account book from 1543–1544 notes payments made both to a doctor and a “phisicioun [sic]” (Clark Drieshen, “Did Henry VIII believe in unicorns?” Medieval Manuscripts, June 11, 2020).

Since the adverb sic is now an accepted word in English, it is written in roman type instead of italic in some styles (e.g., MLA style, Merriam-Webster’s house style). Other style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style, APA Publication Manual, AMA Manual of Style, and New Oxford Style Manual (Hart’s Rules) recommend italicizing it.

Example
  • Correct: MLA: Part of the appeal of The Young Visiters [sic], written by a nine-year old, is its unconventional spelling.
    Correct: Chicago, APA, AMA, OUP: Part of the appeal of The Young Visiters [sic], written by a nine-year old, is its unconventional spelling.
Note

Whether to italicize sic is a matter of style rather than grammar. Both styles are acceptable: italic and roman. Pick a style, and use it consistently in your manuscript. The Editor’s Manual recommends italicizing sic and placing it in brackets in formal writing, which is the style followed throughout this article, except where quoted source material differs.

Usage guide

Use sic to indicate that quoted text has been reproduced exactly without any changes or corrections to spelling or grammar. In formal writing, sic is generally italicized and enclosed in brackets. In news copy, it is often enclosed in parentheses. In some styles, sic is no longer italicized (e.g., MLA style), although other style manuals (Chicago, APA, AMA, Hart’s Rules) suggest italicizing the term. Unless important (e.g., nonstandard or archaic spelling in older texts), consider making a silent editorial correction instead of pointing out someone else’s mistake by using sic.

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Did You Know?

One of a group is singular: One of the students is, not are.
Know more:“One of”: Singular or Plural?