November 2, 2017

Let's stop writing "[sic]" when it's clear from the context that the text was cut and pasted.

2 posts down, I wrote about a reason for not correcting typos. Then, 1 post down, there's a typo inside a quote I cut and pasted.

I'm still going to correct typos — despite Scott Adams's (possibly tongue-in-cheek) praise of typos — but what about typos within quotes from somebody else?

Normally the way to "correct" a typo in a quote is to write "sic" in brackets. I considered doing that in the post below — where Luciano had written "Dylan is a stone cold genius and a truly original artists" — but I realized suddenly that we shouldn't be using "sic" when readers can easily see by the context that we've cut and pasted the quote.

The "sic" is just a way to say that's not my typo. But there's no reason to imagine that I retyped the quote, so readers know it's Luciano's mistake. Putting in "[sic]" is unnecessary, distracting, and pedantic. You know it's not my typo, so I'm just intruding to say something very boring: I've noticed the typo.

Let's stop using "[sic]" in the cut-and-paste context. Either leave the typo or put the right word in brackets or write a separate sentence discussing the typo. The last option there should only be used if you have something interesting/funny to say about the typo. And be careful about overestimating how funny typos are. Humor about typos can be annoying, though I must say that's the perspective of a long-time blogger who has read many, many comments making fun of my typos.

I will now impulsively publish this, in first draft, and then read to discover what typos I've managed to include. And I'll correct them. Because I still care or want you to think I do.

27 comments:

gg6 said...

Much ado about nothink(sic).

traditionalguy said...

I suddenly feel Althoused. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

robother said...

"Because I still care or want you to think I do."

Jesus, cruel neutrality deployed even against her own motivation. My hat's off.

tcrosse said...

Sic 'em !

Bryant said...

Whenever I see a typo in a quote without [sic] I usually go check the source to see if it really was a typo in the original. Sometimes it isn't...

Bob Ellison said...

D'accord.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Another reason not to correct a typo in a quote, is that it might have been intentional, in which case correcting it loses the intent.

Char Char Binks said...

"Much ado about nothink(sic)."

Sic burn!

Nonapod said...

Before the internet I never new wtf (sic) was, but I was able to infer its meaning from context. A friend of mine who was a journalism major explained the whole "sic erat scriptum" thing.

There's a weird kind of ego thing at play with (sic). I mean, when you hit someone with a (sic) you're pointing out their error. "Look! This dumb-dumb made a mistake! Take everything they say with a grain of salt because they can't even speak or write well!".

Char Char Binks said...

"The sixth sick sheek's [sic] sixth sheep's sick."

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

In internet conversation "[Sic]" does seem like just another piece of the overall chippiness and passive-aggressive, concern-troll bomb throwing. Like, "Um...", "I'm just going to leave this here", "Life comes at you fast", "TFW" etc.

Yancey Ward said...

I generally leave the typos in when I quote someone explicitly, and I don't ever add "sic". My main reason for doing it this way is so anyone who uses the quote in my comment tries to find the source by using it in a search will find it as the top result almost without fail.

Michael K said...

There's a weird kind of ego thing at play with (sic). I mean, when you hit someone with a (sic) you're pointing out their error.

Yes, and sometimes it's appropriate.

bwebster said...

So, what is this magic mechanism by which I can tell that a quote you have included has been cut and pasted, rather than retyped? I regularly run across sources that I want to quote that cannot be cut and pasted -- the text is in a image or in a document/format that doesn't allow selecting and copying -- and so I retype it. And thus, if there are errors, I [sic] 'em to show this isn't an error on my part, but on theirs.

I will note -- though I rarely do this -- that [sic] is often used editorially, when the source being quoted is making assertions that the re-poster feels are factually untrue or unsupportable.

southcentralpa said...

It's your blog, Professor, do what you like. That having been said, the [sic] is not always only about 'it's not my typo', but also sometimes has a subtext of 'what a moron', particularly when a wrong word is used.

For instance, "Trump refused to reign [sic] in the Russia-snugglers on his staff". The word "reign" here might be a typo but probably isn't, clearly should be "rein", and reflects poorly on the intellect of the person who wrote it.

SeanF said...

There's another reason to be careful with [sic]. If you're going to use it, make sure you find all the errors. If you've got [sic]s all over the place in a paragraph, any errors which don't have [sic] by them are therefore your errors and not the original writer's.

Just a few months ago I had to point this out on some other website where they had put [sic] in about a half-dozen places in an obviously cut-and-pasted paragraph, but had missed (at least) two errors.

Marc Puckett said...

Yes, yes, play with the 'rules' now, throw this out, throw that out, all of it with reasonable-sounding justifications adduced. You all will end up with Riddley Walker language without having had the excuse of a worldwide nuclear catastrophe.

traditionalguy said...

Brings to mind the tales of the sudden Japanese industrialization in the 1880s. They bought American machinery and took it over to Japan and copied it. Of course the bought a used Steam Engine and then copied the old boiler with its new patches on it. They needed SIC written on their Engines.

tim maguire said...

At least sometimes,"sic" is used as an insult. It doesn't just say, "not my typo," it highlights the typo and often makes a bigger deal if it than is necessary. In so doing, it (unfairly, unproductively) undermines the authority of the argument containing the typo.

Jim Grey said...

I'm with you. I find that using [sic] is akin to saying "look at the moron who can't spell." The point is not to put down the original writer. I'm cool with just putting the correct word in brackets instaed.

Kevin said...

Not just typos, any word you find odd or erroneous.

Imagine how close we are to: "Jim went outside. He [sic] was enjoying the day."

'TreHammer said...

...much ado about nothing... - Bill Shakespeare

Robert Cook said...

"Normally the way to "correct" a typo in a quote is to write "sic" in brackets."

"(sic)" isn't about typos or misspellings in particular. (Not all misspellings are typos; some are out-and-out misspellings.) It just means that something is being quoted as originally stated.

From Wikipedia:

"The Latin adverb sic ('thus'; 'just as'; in full: sic erat scriptum, 'thus was it written')inserted after a quoted word or passage indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed exactly as found in the source text, complete with any erroneous or archaic spelling, surprising assertion, faulty reasoning, or other matter that might otherwise be taken as an error of transcription.

The usual usage is to inform the reader that any errors or apparent errors in quoted material do not arise from errors in the course of the transcription, but are intentionally reproduced, exactly as they appear in the source text. It is generally placed inside brackets to indicate that it is not part of the quoted matter.

Sic may also be used derisively by the proofreader, to call attention to the original writer's spelling mistakes and erroneous logic or to show general disapproval or dislike of the material."

tim in vermont said...

It's almost always liberals, the most conformist of the political types, who think that typos and misspellings prove stuff about somebody's argument. That's because authority is the touchstone of thinking for them.

tim in vermont said...

It's more important to be able to search the original.

Fritz said...

Will do. Thanks, I needed an excuse to be lazy.

buwaya said...

I feel about typos and correcting them as this -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTVDpOaTGsc