The usage of "sic" in writing? thread explains that:

[sic] is used when quoting another to say, "this is not a typographical, spelling or grammar error on the part of the reporter; rather, the error was in the original, and we're quoting it without change."

Now, I just read a news article with this excerpt:

The documents also show IT workers for Platte River Networks referred in an internal work ticket to “the Hilary [sic] coverup [sic] operation." A worker later said the term was a joke.

"[sic]" indicates that there is an error. Yet, the Hillary coverup operation is perfect English and does not have a typographical, spelling, or grammatical error.

So, "[sic]" is there because this author thinks that there is an error in meaning. But, not every author would put a "[sic]" in that quote. So, since when did quotes become alterable by an author?

In professional writing, do author's have the prerogative to insert "[sic]" into quotes based on the author's interpretation of what the speaker really meant to say? Isn't a quote a quote? Isn't that what causes political gaffes?

  • 2
    "Hilary" in the quoted material is missing an "l." Inserting "[sic]" is not considered to alter the quote, so I don't understand why you ask "since when did quotes become alterable by an author?" – herisson Sep 24 '16 at 21:44
  • @suməlic I never noticed that one "l" is missing! – Jaqaex Sep 24 '16 at 21:48
  • 1
    @suməlic Is the second [sic] because of "coverup" instead of "cover-up"? – Jaqaex Sep 24 '16 at 21:48
  • I'm not sure why the second one is there. "Coverup" is not really an error. – herisson Sep 24 '16 at 21:51
  • @suməlic, Jaqen: Apparently, the Watergate coverup, for example, was usually reported as the Watergate cover-up. – FumbleFingers Sep 25 '16 at 0:10

Sic is from the Latin for "thus". Placing [sic] in a quotation, near (usually following) an apparent misspelling or grammatical error or some other anomaly, indicates that the person doing the quoting did not introduce this anomaly, but rather it is a direct quote from the source material.

What the person doing the quoting considers to be an "anomaly" is up to them. Certainly in the case of spelling "Hillary" as "Hilary" the notation is deserved. And in the case of "coverup" it is reasonable for the person quoting to want to indicate that he did not choose this term, but rather it was copied from the original source. (Alternatively, as the P-ists among us have argued, [sic] may have been used because of a perception that "coverup", without the hyphen, is a misspelling.)

It should be noted that the use of [sic] does not conceptually alter the quoted material, but rather assures the reader that it has not been altered.

(And, yes, there are cases where [sic] is used to highlight and ridicule minor, nearly negligible errors in the original source. But many sorts of writing can be used for ridicule, and even if the intent is ridicule this does not make the use of a notation such as [sic] invalid or improper. Some of the greatest writing in English literature has ridicule at its core.)


This is indeed indicating two spelling errors in the original source. It is referring to "Hilary" (instead of "Hillary") and "coverup" (instead of "cover-up").

  • Is it really correct to characterize "coverup" as a spelling error? I find it listed in several dictionaries as an alternative spelling of "cover-up": Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionary – herisson Sep 25 '16 at 2:51
  • 1
    That may be debatable, but the author certainly considered it an error, which is really the issue here. – Owen Sep 25 '16 at 2:53

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.