Collaborator A is concerned that when he and Collaborator B quote some published material in a formal letter, they should be careful not to change any of the quoted text. What do you call this concern? "Scholarly accuracy?"

Example sentence for an email to Collaborator A:

Well, when putting together quotes from published material, there will be quotation marks and attributions to sources. If an error is detected in the original material, clarifying text can be inserted in brackets. (Example 1, Example 2.) Thus, it is possible to make corrections and still avoid lapses in scholarly accuracy.

Is the part in bold a correct description of the concern, and if not, what is this called?

1 Answer 1


That sounds perfectly fine to me. The term is accurate and properly descriptive.

It should be noted, though, that it is permissible, and even standing practice, to silently correct obvious errors in quotations, if one is 100% sure that no significant change in meaning will be incurred, and that no other desired effect is lost.

This practice is based on the common courtesy of avoiding embarrassment for the author (standard etiquette due any author), but also on fluency of reading: it is easier, quicker, and more pleasant for readers to consume a text without distracting errors.

Sometimes one observes an author so afraid of misquoting sources that he feels obliged to keep errors as they are and mark them (or the entire sentence) with sic. This is even more embarrassing to the source: the author is saying, "of course I noticed this error, but I am so precise that I will keep the exact spelling, and I am so well educated that I know how to use sic". So sic should only be used when it is really necessary to keep the error—in which case using sic is generally recommended.

One may also supply omitted words, or replace pronouns, in partial or elliptic quotations, e.g. in quoting Queen Anne was not always faithful; she had several lovers among her personal guards as "Queen Anne had several lovers among her personal guards", unless the exact words used are somehow important.

But the caveat mentioned above remains always: only obvious errors/replacements should be edited, and only if the original meaning is preserved entirely. Common sense will show the way.

In addition, one should always ask oneself this question: do I really need to quote here, or should I simply paraphrase? When there is no specific reason why the language of the source should be interesting to readers (though there could be many reasons), it's better to paraphrase. A quotation breaks the flow of a text and makes it slightly less pleasant and easy to read. Unnecessary quotations, like unnecessary sics, may come across as overly fastidious, or, conversely, as lazy. When the original contains many errors, that is a good reason to paraphrase (rather than correct or mark ubiquitous errors).

One generally does not correct or supply words when citing legal texts, such as laws, verdicts, and regulations; but this exception does not usually apply to e.g. citing academic texts themselves, even if they are about legal issues. Similarly, one generally does not edit quotations in linguistic research if the error or ellipsis could be relevant to linguistic research. An example of this is a quotation used in a dictionary or linguistic article. This is only common sense. Linguistics and legal scholarship could be said to be exempt because they are meta-linguistic: they write in language, but also about language.

The Chicago Manual of Style supports limited corrections or format changes such as the following: ...

  1. Isolated misspellings or typographical errors (but retain “mistakes” when they are deliberate, such as when imitating an illiterate attempt at writing, or when quoting from material written at a time when spelling was nonstandard).


  • This is very helpful. // I got a bit lost in the last paragraph where you said, citing legal texts is usually exempt. I'm not sure if you're saying exempt from the strict requirements or exempt from the leeway you described earlier. Feb 23, 2018 at 17:30
  • @aparente001: I've edited my answer. Is this better? Feb 24, 2018 at 2:03
  • Yes, thank you. // I tried to use this but I realized I need to cite something or someone, and I don't think citing this answer is going to cut it with this collaborator. Have you got a concise reference that a not super-sophisticated person would understand? Feb 24, 2018 at 4:51
  • @aparente001: Do you mean the "that sounds perfectly fine" part? I'm afraid I have no support for that! Or do you mean the part about correcting obvious errors? Maybe I could find a quotable source for that. Feb 24, 2018 at 14:33
  • 1
    @aparente001: I've added a quotation from a source that mentions the Chicago Manual of Style. And I've explained some parts a bit more. Feb 26, 2018 at 4:54

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