I have had to write a review of an interview, as the article's author has not given me permission to fully reprint it (I did ask, they didn't respond). I have instead quoted from the article and written my own related padding around it.

However, the original article contains a factual error. The published sentence reads 'This person joined the club in 2000.' when the person who joined tells me that it was 2003, not 2000. As this person is a client, I want to respond to their wishes and publish true information about them. On the other hand, it is bad form to simply retroactively change dates and times when the original has already been published.

Would the correct course of action be 'joined in 2000 [sic: the person has stated this is meant to read 2003]', '... 2000 [/Person has now corrected this to read 2003./]' or '... 2000 [sic]' with a footnote that says 'Original article contained incorrect date. Person joined the club in 2003.'

Any help is appreciated as I'm not sure what works best. It is magazine copy rather than academic so referencing and formatting aren't paramount but I'd like to follow best practice.

  • Maybe "joined in [2003]", no sic, like how sometimes pronouns are replaced with names as in "She said she would try that" becomes "[Kit] said she would try that." – Kit Z. Fox Jul 17 '14 at 12:02
  • 2
    You might be better asking at writers.stackexchange.com but I think it's commonplace now for electronic 'documents' to correct the error and add a footnote showing what the original said. so ...joined in 2003[1] would be in the main article and [1] Original document contained the incorrect date of 2000 ... as a footnote. – Frank Jul 17 '14 at 12:12

A quote is a quote. If you are modifying a quote for clarity or accuracy, you must make it crystal clear that what you wrote is not exactly what was written or said by the author.

The author of a written quote is the person who wrote it, not the person who spoke it. If you are quoting an article (rather than something you heard yourself) and you change or omit words, you need to use standard devices to indicate this. The most accepted forms are brackets [] for words that are used in place of the original words or added to the original text, for clarity or brevity. Omitted words are indicated by ellipses ... .

[Sic] is most often used where an error occurs in the quote itself, and the person quoting the original source seeks to clarify that the error was in the original. It also may be used to reflect a non-traditional spelling or other unfamiliar form. It is probably used for spelling or grammatical mistakes more often than factual errors. I have never seen [sic] followed by an explanation in the body of the text.

The author of the article wrote the wrong date, regardless of what the person quoted said or meant. If you are quoting the article (rather than a new quote from the speaker), you need to quote it as written or clearly indicate where you modify it.

As @KitFox offers, you could write joined in [2003]. This would indicate that 2003 was not in the original article, but accurately reflects what was meant. I would urge that you also include a footnote or a parenthetical that said something like (erroneously written as 2000 in the original article).

An alternative would be to write joined in 2000 [sic] and then add a footnote or parenthetical that said (according to [person being quoted] this was actually 2003).

It would be problematic to merely change 2000 to 2003 and just add a footnote without also doing something in the text itself to indicate it had been modified.

In sum, if you are using quotes, the words need to be exact unless you prominently indicate what has been changed within the quote.

  • Minor quibble (which comes up every time 'sic' is mentioned): [sic] is used to assure the reader that the quote is presented verbatim. The most common reason to want to do this is because there's an error in the original, but that's not the only reason. – Curtis H. Jul 17 '14 at 15:13
  • 1
    @CurtisH. I agree. Sic is Latin for thus. What it really means is that it was written thus. It might reflect an earlier spelling form or almost anything that the reader might think was an error by the person reporting the quote. I will modify accordingly. – bib Jul 17 '14 at 15:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.