I'm writing a paper, and I quote several lists from a source that doesn't use Oxford commas. Sic seems way too strong for the situation, since there's no real error in the quotes, just a different convention. I could change my own paper to be consistent with the quotations, but then what would I do if I had to quote a source that did use Oxford commas? I could sneak the commas into the quotes. Finally, I could just leave the quotes inconsistent with the rest of the paper. What's the correct way, if any, to address this?

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    Do you have an initial position telling you that using the (optional) final comma is somehow "incorrect"? Why? Just reproduce the text as originally written and put your silly prejudices aside. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 2:33
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    It’s quote, include the quote verbatim. – Jim Feb 25 '16 at 2:34
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    Sic is definitely not appropriate. Quote the quotations exactly, and use the comma convention you prefer (or the one your style guide dictates) when you are not quoting. – ab2 Feb 25 '16 at 2:36
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    What @ab2 said. If I were a writer, and someone had the cheek to add [sic] after my Oxford comma in a cite, I'd be looking to see if I could sue them for defamation. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '16 at 2:38
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    @FumbleFingers You mean you'd [sic] your lawyers on them? – Hot Licks Feb 25 '16 at 3:21

This is what I tell my students in similar circumstances.

If you quote, reproduce the author's text exactly. If the author's text not follow your punctuation conventions, the matter hangs over his or her head, not yours.

Unless the quoted passage contains an egregious error, do not call attention to it with "sic."

Some editors will enforce conformity on quoted text. If so, the sin is theirs.

  • Absolutely. But you need to carefully read the end result in case by quoting too little you remove context that would be necessary to avoid ambiguity. A rather artificial example: "My parents were Jim and Ann. Is like to dedicate this award to my parents, Ayn Rand and God". The second sentence is a common example, the sentence I added before it is a rather clumsy attempt to fix the ambiguity without the Oxford comma. – Chris H Feb 25 '16 at 8:17

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