What does [sic] mean?

As you go through online articles, magazine editorials, and news reports, you may encounter the use of the word sic. It is typically italicized and enclosed in square brackets like this — [sic] — but what exactly does it mean? Should you be paying any attention to this notation or should you just skim right past it?

It’s debatable how much weight you should be placing on “sic,” but you should at least know what it means. It is a Latin word that roughly translates to “in such a manner” or “as such.” That’s not really how we use it today, however.

Instead, you’ll find that when writers are quoting the work or words of other people, they’ll insert [sic] to indicate that the quote has been reproduced verbatim. Typically, the quote will contain an incorrect or strange spelling of some kind and the writer wants to preserve that without it appearing to be a typo on their part.

If you were to pronounce “sic” in Latin, it would sound closer to the English word “seek.” These days, we tend to anglicize the term to sound closer to the English word “sick.”

In terms of usage, [sic] is generally used to preserve an incorrect spelling, but it can also be used to preserve an inaccuracy in a quote as well. Here are a couple of examples from President George W. Bush:

“We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation [sic] that suffers from incredible disease.”

“I hear there’s rumors on the Internets [sic] that we’re going to have a draft.”

As you may be able to tell from these so-called Bushisms, the use of [sic] is oftentimes meant to be humorous or even scathing in nature. It can be meant to poke fun at the person being quoted, but it may also be used in legal documents where accuracy is a must.

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