As a researcher, I often need to quote from the previous authors. Sometimes, it happens that there are spelling mistakes in the part I want to quote. I treat this as a human error and write the correct spelling. However, I am unsure how should I handle if there is some (relatively) serious error? For example, I found the word choosed. Should I simply copy with the wrong word, or fix it?

If I change it, the previous authors (from whom I took the quote) may be unhappy. If I do not change it, the reviewers (who would be reviewing my paper) may be unhappy by seeing my lack of care while writing a paper.

This question is different from this, as I am confused whether or not to correct. Since I am writing a formal paper, I cannot use sic.

  • 2
    Why do you think you can’t use it in a formal paper?
    – Xanne
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 4:04
  • 10
    Why can’t you use sic in your formal paper?
    – Lawrence
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 5:06
  • 1
    I don't the researchers can change the original author's work. If the reviewers ask a question, this could be suitably answered.
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 10:22
  • 1
    @Lawrence Please see my reply above.
    – hola
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 0:29
  • 2
    This doesn't seem a question about English language, but about academic etiquette or how to avoid annoying people in academia. As such, it would be better asked at academia.stackexchange.com
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 14:54

2 Answers 2


I don't know why you've concluded you can't use "sic" in academic writing. The term simply means that you're quoting the source material verbatim.

Wang concluded that "A tend to choosed [sic] B".

But "[sic]" can make it seem like you're calling attention to an error, and it sounds like you're especially sensitive to this connotation.

I'm not sure it's necessary to worry about the authors growing upset with you for correcting a grammatical error. For all anyone knows, it was a typesetting or editing error. No reasonable author would assert that their publications are error free.

Wang concluded that "A tend to [choose] B".

I agree that editors, reviewers, and readers could get upset with you by quoting text with spelling or grammatical errors.

In the context of academic publication, I would not change a quotation without drawing attention to the change (as with the brackets above, for example).

  • The answer is sensible advice. Furthermore, if the mistake is so serious that it disrupts the argument, merely explain the way in which it might be interpreted, and discuss it as part of your article.
    – Anton
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 7:04
  • "I'm not sure it's necessary to worry about the authors growing upset with you for correcting a grammatical error" The problem is that almost none is reasonable. Chances are they'll hold grudge, and likely avenge with my paper (which inevitably would have editorial errors) when they review it.
    – hola
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 0:31
  • That’s unfortunate. It’s commonplace to ask for competing or antagonistic colleagues or groups to be excluded as potential reviewers. I would definitely do this if the other authors are so petty. In addition, perhaps you can avoid quoting the part(s) of the sentence with errors, although this isn’t always possible, of course. Commented May 19, 2021 at 0:53
  • Another option is to paraphrase the quotation, saying something like “The authors take the position that (or note that) A chose B . . .
    – Xanne
    Commented May 19, 2021 at 2:01
  • 1
    I'm an editor, and work on academic law books. I am absolutely not allowed to 'correct' any mistakes I happen to spot in quotations from other academics. If you're quoting something, you quote it. If you're going to change it, then paraphrase it. Commented May 19, 2021 at 14:45

With academic work today, accuracy is non-negotiable. It is not acceptable to present modified work as if the original author wrote it that way.

The three main ways to handle corrections of obvious typos are:

  1. Add sic after the typo to indicate that the error was in the original: “... choosed (sic) ...”;

  2. Correct the word, but place it in square brackets: “... [chose] ...”; or

  3. Paraphrase and cite: They did this by choosing ... [XYZ2021]. Follow your department’s style guides regarding citations and referencing.

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