Grammar Using sic in 2024 |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Using sic in 2024

An item that still periodically surfaces among GrammarBook.com readers is the proper use of sic.

Sic is a Latin term meaning “so, thus.” A complete word that requires no punctuation or abbreviation, it is found only in direct quotations and other directly quoted material to indicate that something was communicated “in this manner.”

Writers include it to inform readers that something incorrectly expressed is left intact from the original source. The term appears right after the error.

Because the use of sic can still prompt questions, and because perspectives on sic evolve as our language does, we thought now would be a good time to review some guidelines that apply in 2024 and potentially beyond.

The principles that we’ll discuss are informed by our two primary supporting style guides, The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook.

The guidelines for sic we will discuss concern irregularities in writing and speech being quoted. We would still include sic when we are quoting someone or something with a factual inaccuracy.

Example

“I first became aware of Jerry when Seinfeld premiered in the early ʼ90s [sic],” Melissa Michaels said. (Seinfeld debuted in 1989.)

Both style guides agree that the use of sic is waning and should be considered only sporadically within certain contexts.

[sic] in 2024: CMOS

CMOS guidelines relate mainly to formal publications such as fiction and nonfiction books, textbooks, and academic writing. The following are the stylebook’s current directions for sic as they pertain to this discussion.

1) Use sic only where it is relevant to call attention to such matters (and especially where readers might otherwise assume the mistake is in the transcription rather than the original) or where a paraphrase or silent correction is inappropriate.

Example

[In a quotation citing an announcement by Principal Merriweather]

“Principal Mayweather [sic] will communicate the new school policy next week,” Jed Hewson, a meeting attendee, said.

(The principal’s correct name is misspelled.)

2) Don’t use sic merely to identify unconventional spellings, which should be explained—if at all—in a note or in introductory material. Similarly, where material with many errors and variant spellings is reproduced as written, an opening comment or a note to that effect will forgo a reliance on sic.

Example

Editor’s note: In the correspondence between Joseph and Jasmine, a recurring example of their esoteric parlance was their reference to “skül” instead of “school.”

[Joseph] Perhaps a good place for us to meet would be the skül. Since skül lets out at 2:45, I can meet you there at 2:30 and we can chat until the buzzer sounds.

[Jasmine] Sure. Sounds good. I’ll meet you at the skül at 2:30.

[sic] in 2024: AP

AP guidelines mainly inform journalistic and daily writing, such as in newspapers, magazines, business blogs and marketing, and informal correspondence. The following direction represents AP’s current stance on sic and the treatment of quotations.

1) When quoting written words, retain the style used by the writer; don’t alter the written words even if they don’t match AP style.

2) If there is a question about a quotation’s succinctness or accuracy, either don’t use it or ask the original source to further clarify.

3) Do not use sic to alter quotations even to correct minor errors or irregularities, including misspellings, incorrect grammar or peculiar word usage. Casual minor spoken miscues can be replaced with ellipses but only with great caution.

Examples

Original quote: “I told Emma I’d come over and chill with her and the fam after I vibe checked Stacy,” Leticia said. “She’d started ghosting me all of a sudden.”

Redacted quote avoiding sic (not advised practice): “I told Emma I’d come over and relax with her and her family after I looked into how Stacy was feeling,” Leticia said. “She’d started avoiding me all of a sudden.”

(The quotation includes terms from Gen Z vernacular. If quoting the speaker directly, rather than interpret or translate the words, we would leave them intact as spoken.)

Original quote: “We can’t always take it for granite and think we’ll have elite, healthy players each season,” Coach Spagnetti said. “We have to approach it one year at a time.”

Altered quote (not advised practice): “We can’t always take it for granite [sic] and think we’ll have elite, healthy players each season,” Coach Spagnetti said. “We have to approach it one year at a time.”

Adjusted quote (advised): “We can’t always…think we’ll have elite, healthy players each season,” Coach Spagnetti said. “We have to approach it one year at a time.”

(The ellipses allow the writer to omit a misspoken, unnecessary phrase without changing the meaning of the original quote.)

4) Rather than use sic to identify nonstandard language, paraphrase the material clearly and correctly whenever possible.

Example

Original quote: “For all intensive purposes, I’d rather not yet comment, because this moment here’s a whopper,” Fred Flapp said. “Winning a hunnerd mildo in the lottery ain’t something in most people’s speech notes.”

Paraphrased: Fred Flapp, the jackpot recipient, said he’d rather not yet comment on the size of the moment, as most people don’t plan to speak about winning one hundred million dollars in the lottery.

5) Don’t use colloquial spellings such as gonna or wanna to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to convey an emphasis by the speaker.

Example

Original quote: “They’re not really gonna repossess my riding mower, are they?” Abe Crick said upon being informed. “Do they really wanna see my boot leather that close? Because if they come for it, you better believe they’re gonna get a size 11 instead.”

Adjusted quote: “They’re not really going to repossess my riding mower, are they?” Abe Crick said upon being informed. “Do they really want to see my boot leather that close? Because if they come for it, you better believe they’re gonna get a size 11 instead.”

(The last “gonna” is maintained for genuine emphasis where it best fits.)

[sic] in 2024: Typographical Treatment

As we’ve been alluding to, as a matter of journalistic integrity, when writers are quoting someone or something, the quotation should remain intact as written or spoken, even if it includes irregularities or nonstandard usage.

In instances where including [sic] is warranted, you can present the term as we have been thus far: in italics enclosed in nonitalic brackets. The Chicago Manual of Style favors this treatment as well.

I really never thought that anyone would beat Hank Aaron’s record of 700 home runs [sic],” Willie Jo Mashburn said. (We are identifying a factual inaccuracy: Hank Aaron hit 755 career home runs.)

Some writers might choose to present the word without italicizing it or the brackets: [sic].

“I really never thought that anyone would beat Hank Aaron’s record of 700 home runs [sic],” Willie Jo Mashburn said.

You might also adjust your style if the surrounding quote in which sic appears is in italics. In this case, the brackets and the word would be italicized with the rest of the content.

“I really never thought that anyone would beat Hank Aaron’s record of 700 home runs [sic],” Willie Jo Mashburn said.

Pop Quiz

Identify if you would include [sic] in the following sentences.

1. “Irregardless, we will proceed with the budget as stated,” the vice president of finance explained. [Yes / No]

2. “It’s like they always say: The sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” Elmer Fudd said. [Yes / No]

3. “Me and her were on the way, but we wasn’t sure when we’d get there,” Lucy Mooney said. [Yes / No]

4. “I don’t care what the media says,” the pop star said. “Mollie on the Mic is still my best girlfran.” [Yes / No]

5. “I’ll believe that when Benjamin Franklin comes back for another run at president,” Ollie Pratt said. [Yes / No]

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. No

2. Yes: factual inaccuracy (the sun rises in the east and sets in the west).

3. No

4. No

5. Yes: factual inaccuracy (Benjamin Franklin never ran for president).

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

One response to “Using sic in 2024”

  1. Robert W Mitchell says:

    I think sic is sometimes used to emphasize how ignorant the writer is. So you have to decide whether you want to be negative. Also, I think many readers see a sic and don’t know what the problem is. Why not help the reader? If the quote is “Yes, Jennifer Jones is the principal,” you could write “Yes, Jennifer Jones [sic, Jackson] is the principal.”

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