What Does [Sic] Mean? – Definition & Examples

Sic, [Sic], or (Sic) is one of those words you may see integrated into documents and direct quotations, but what does it really mean? Or, rather, what does it indicate?

No matter how you use it, sic is used to indicate spelling and grammatical errors in materials you are quoting. In short, you are pointing out that YOU didn’t make the mistake.

Even though you probably won’t see it too often, I find if you regularly pursue academic writings or transcribed materials (even on social media) you will see its use much more often. And, as I tell my students, it is best to know why it is being used to avoid any miscommunication the error could create.

What Does Sic Stand for?

Sic has a Latin origin and literal translation that means “thus” or “so”. When it is used you are communicating “thus it was written,” indicating that you aren’t responsible for the grammar or spelling error, and it was originally written in such a manner. When used in such a manner it is considered an adverb.

Some people have turned sic into an acronym to mean “spelling in context” to indicate it was spelled that way in the original text, but this is not accurate. Sic is not an acronym, but if this helps you remember what it is used for, it can’t hurt.

Sic also has a few other uses. In Scotland, the word sic has the same meaning as such, and in speech and writing is used to indicate “such as”.

Sic is also slang to mean “to attack” or “to entice to attack.” In this use it works as a verb.

For example:

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  • If you don’t get off my property, I’m going to sic my dog on you.

This article is focused on using sic to denote mistakes made in quoted materials.

How to Use Sic in a Quote

Sic is only used within text that offers material directly quoted from an original source. If the original quote has grammatical errors or spelling errors you will want to point out that this is how it was originally written. It is not acceptable to ever change wording or spelling when directly quoting; that is considered bad form. 

Sic is used to indicate the direct quote is in its original form.

If you prefer not to directly quote and avoid using sic, you can always paraphrase the material. Just be sure to provide the proper citation or reference in accordance to whatever style guide you are using.

Sic is used to highlight:

  • An error in the original source material.
  • The materials quoted are copied exactly as they appear in the original publication.
  • The mistakes are not attributed to the current writer, but are an error in the original wording.

How is Sic Used in Writing?

Sic usually appears in square brackets […], but that is not the only way you can use it. It also may be used in parentheses (…) or appear in italics: sic.

  • [sic]
  • (sic)
  • sic

Does Sic go Before or After the Error?

Sic follows immediately after the error in written text.

For example:

  • She said their [sic] weren’t any more popsicles in the freezer, which is why he went looking for more in the garage.

When Should Sic be Used?

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Sic is commonly used in documents that record written or spoken communication, as well as in academic writing and social media posts. Although it is practically exclusively used in formal writing scenarios, there are some informal situations in which it is also used.

Academic Writing

Academic writing requires extensive use of research and references to previous studies. Quoting, verbatim, is a common practice to help indicate support to the original claim being written about. Sic is often used in both research papers as well as academic journal articles.

Transcriptions

Transcriptions are common in the legal world. Spoken testimonies and legal proceedings are transcribed as said, and sometimes errors are made in speech and word use. When transcriptions are then used for record purposes, sic is used to indicate the errors originally recorded.

Social Media

Although social media is informal in nature, they do encompass an entire genre of important conversation options. Memes, comments, and posts are all unique ways to share information with one another, and they are designed to be shared with an audience. They also may contain grammar and spelling errors.

Sort of recreating the materials yourself, sharing across social media using sic can help an audience realize it was originally created as such.

Sic Used in Sentences

  • Jonathon was called to the office for having a “phoney [sic] copy of the exam” and had been passing it around as a “cheat sheet.”
  • The message to her fans read: “I want to publickly [sic] thank everyone who has been supportive of my career and patient while I release the new albums.”
  • I want to inform you that the Homecoming t-shirts we ordered were incorrectly printed to say, “If your [ready], stand and cheer.” We would like a refund.

Let’s Review

Although sic can be written multiple ways when used to indicate errors in an original text, they all mean the same thing. Academic writing and transcriptions often pick up on errors due to the nature of research gathering and referencing.

It is never appropriate for the writer using materials to alter it, but they also want to highlight that the errors were not created in their personal work. Sic provides this opportunity.

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