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Using [sic] Properly

Sic is a Latin term meaning “thus.” It is used to indicate that something incorrectly written is intentionally being left as it was in the original. Sic is usually italicized and always surrounded by brackets to indicate that it was not part of the original. Place [sic] right after the error.

Example: She wrote, “They made there [sic] beds.”

Note: The correct sentence should have been, “They made their beds.”

Why use [sic] at all? Why not just make the correction? If you are quoting material, it is generally expected that you will transcribe it exactly as it appeared in the original.

The word sic is also a command to attack (used especially in commanding a dog). The past tense is either sicced or sicked.

Sic ‘em, Fido. Fido sicced (or sicked) the burglar.

Note: With this meaning, the word is not italicized or enclosed in brackets.

Be careful, however, because the word sick, meaning ill, is also a homonym of sic.

Ananda felt sick with the flu yesterday.


Pop Quiz
Place [sic] where needed.

1. I can lend you no more then ten dollars.
2. Who’s turn is it to speak?
3. I don’t know witch way to turn.
4. How did the weather effect your vacation plans?
5. Don’t you think that every one should attend the meeting?


Pop Quiz Answers

1. I can lend you no more then [sic] ten dollars. (than)
2. Who’s [sic] turn is it to speak? (Whose)
3. I don’t know witch [sic] way to turn. (which)
4. How did the weather effect [sic] your vacation plans? (affect)
5. Don’t you think that every one [sic] should attend the meeting? (everyone)

Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2007, at 11:17 pm

87 Comments on Using [sic] Properly

87 responses to “Using [sic] Properly”

  1. Eb Roell says:

    If the same mistake is made several times in a document – in this case eight times in a long paragraph – is it proper to put [sic] behind every one or just behind the first occurrence?

    Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      I don’t know of a rule about this. It would certainly be proper to put [sic] after each quoted error. If the error is not within a quote, you may just correct it entirely in your draft or at least after the first notification of an error in the original.

    • Michael Richmond says:

      With all due respect you seem rather clueless about the many uses of sic. To ignore the very important ironic use (and off the top of my head three other usages)then imply CMOS supports you strikes me as . . .

      Other than this glaring sin of omission I like the text a great deal.

      • The title of this blog is not “The Many Uses of [sic].” The purpose of this blog is to explain the most common use for [sic].

      • Rob says:

        I love when someone says “with all due respect” before they put their foot in their mouth.

        • Diana says:

          I totally agree. However, please note that you should have used “he” and “his” rather than “they” and “their” in your comment. (Lord help me if this reply contains an error.)

          • Catherine S. says:

            Regarding he/his, they/their: It is appropriate to use they/their when speaking/writing in generalities, that is ,when it could be female or male. In larger amounts of text you can also switch between he/his and she/hers.

  2. Cynthia says:

    How do you correct the error. Would it be appropriate as follows: [sic correction]? Do you italicize sic and the corrected word or just sic?
    Thank you.

    • You do not actually correct the error. You leave the incorrect word and only italicize and put sic in brackets.

      Example: She wrote, “The dogs ate there [sic] food.”

      • steve says:

        You could also make a correction in brackets and leave “sic” out altogether. Example:

        original: The dogs ate there food.

        quotation: The dogs ate [their] food.

        • In formal writing [sic] alone is preferred. However, informally, you could use your method.

          • ATO says:

            The formal method of correcting is the use of “recte” to indicate the correction. In the example, the error could be noted and corrected as follows: “there [sic] [recte their] food.”

          • That is interesting. We have not, however, been able to find any major style manuals or grammar sources that recommend the use of “recte” in modern written English. Wikipedia does, however, define the word and acknowledge its use, especially in the field of palaeography (the study of ancient writing). Apparently the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music Style Sheet recommends its use.

          • zar says:

            Scrutinising a poorly-composed document isn’t the most appealing prospect in the first place but the method described above would make traversing one a far more unpleasant, cumbersome experience…

  3. Charles says:

    Your usage is incomplete. Following unquoted text, authors uncommonly may insert sic to indicate ironic use. Quoted or not, sic is used to indicate a surprising or paradoxical word, phrase, or fact that is not a mistake and is to be read as it stands.

    • Yes, these less common uses are given in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. We tend to favor The Chicago Manual of Style and The AP Stylebook, commonly referenced by writers, which emphasize using sic for misspellings, errors, or peculiar usages.

  4. Haley says:

    How would one correct the following error?

    The message sent to her account read, “Who do you think you are, trader [sic]!”, and was sent three minutes before the message to Joni was sent.

    I have inserted the sic, but am confused as to the exclamatory punctuation of the quoted statement. Should there be a space between the closing bracket and the exclamation mark?

    • “Who do you think you are, trader [sic]!” is correct, though awkward. Since sic is never mandatory, there are other choices, like saying before or after the quotation, “The reader will note that traitor is spelled wrong.” Or you could stop or interrupt the quote before the misspelling and simply tell readers that the message sent to the account called the person a traitor, but misspelled it.

  5. Richelle says:

    can you use [sic] after an italicized title that has an incorrect word in it?

    • Yes. Use [sic] to indicate that something incorrectly written is intentionally being left as it was in the original. However, it would be clearer to write [sic] in roman if the text is italicized. For example: Gone Width [sic] the Wind.

  6. David says:

    Not trying to be a Nazi, but a homonym is a word that shares the spelling while a homophone is a word that shares the sound. I get them mixed up all the time so I thought I might post this for the benefit of those like me who may confuse the two.

    • In the sense of strict linguistics, the definition of homonym is “one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike but different in meaning.” True homonyms are both homographs (spelled alike but different in meaning or pronunciation) and homophones (pronounced alike but different in meaning or spelling). The word homonym is often used, as we did in our blog, to refer to words that are either homographs or homophones. says, “The more familiar word homonym, heard in classrooms from early grades on, has become an all-inclusive term that describes not only words that are both homophonic and homographic, but words that are either one or the other. In common parlance, then, words that sound alike, look alike, or both, can be called homonyms.”

      One of the definitions of homonym in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is “a homophone.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines homonym as “One of two or more words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning.”

  7. Gay says:

    If a quoted sentence contains the words “a threaded connection elements” is it proper to put sic after the word “a” or should it go after “elements”?

  8. Rich Brown says:

    I am quoting a passage with an error which is that the author has attempted to use a pair of parenthetic commas but done so incorrectly. The result is two commas in the wrong place. Where should [sic] go?

    • While commonly placed following a misspelled or wrongly used word in an original document or passage, We have never seen [sic] used to indicate punctuation errors. We fear that wherever you place it, readers will assume that the word immediately preceding [sic] is somehow in error. If the passage you wish to quote sufficiently conveys the message you are needing, we would just leave it alone. If you feel it is necessary to point out the incorrect commas, you might try an explanation within brackets, e.g., [note to readers: the pair of commas . . . ].

  9. Hope says:

    What if a quote has more than one misspelled word, do you use [sic] after each misspelled word?

  10. Paul says:

    I am working on cleaning up an unofficial compilation of regulations.

    If there is an incorrect citation to a section number, e.g., 648.5(x) should be 648.5(y), is it appropriate to use [sic] after the incorrect citation with a footnote that says: “The correct citation is 648.5(y).”?

    • [Sic] is more commonly used to indicate that something incorrectly written is intentionally being left as it was in the original. “Cleaning up” a document as you describe involves correcting the errors and [sic] would not be used.

  11. Katie says:

    If a sentence is unnecessarily capitalized in a quotation, should [sic] be placed afterwards in that situation, as well?

    • While commonly placed following a misspelled or wrongly used word in an original document or passage, we have never seen [sic] used to indicate capitalization errors. It is possible that wherever you place it, readers will assume that the word immediately preceding [sic] is spelled incorrectly. If the passage you wish to quote sufficiently conveys the message you are needing, we would just leave it alone.

  12. Katie says:

    Should I use [sic] to show that the grammar of the quote is incorrect?

  13. Di says:

    What about the use of [sic] as an indication of irony (amongst others things) as stated above by Charles. I’m interested in how [sic] is used in those situations. Do you have examples?

    • As mentioned in January 2012, such other uses are uncommon. You may wish to look at the discussion in Wikipedia, Sic, especially sections 2.4 Wordplay and puns, 2.5 Form of ridicule, and 4.1 Insensitivity.

  14. Beth says:

    I often must include large pertinent sections from contracts in the briefs I type. These contracts are so full of grammatical errors, that I’m embarrassed typing them. Is there a way to put “sic” at the end of each error-filled section?

    • [Sic] is used after each individual error. Instead, you might consider placing a disclaimer before the contract sections, such as: “The following sections from the ABC contract contain grammatical errors but are included here exactly as they appear in the contract since they do not impact the legal issues at hand,” or something to that effect. However, if there’s any chance the grammatical errors have led to any part of what is being disputed by the parties, you may be better off identifying every error with [sic].

  15. Dara says:

    I am writing a piece using UK english but quoting a lot of American writers – should I keep the American spelling in the quote and put [sic] after each word that uses the American spelling?

    • Since [sic] is usually used to indicate something that is incorrectly written, and the spelling in the quotes is not incorrectly written in American English, we do not recommend using [sic]. You may want to mention in your article that American spellings may differ from those used in UK English.

      • zar says:

        The piece is in UK English & therefore [sic] can be used to denote the USA English spellings as it is certainly incorrect in the former idiom.

        • The term [sic] indicates that something contains an error in the language it was written in. It should not change based on the reader’s native language. In a global society, it may be necessary to advise the reader that some of the spellings are different, rather than labeling the words as “errors.”

  16. Gordie says:

    “Example: Ananda felt sick with the flu yesterday.”


    “Example: Ananda [sic] felt sick with the flu yesterday.”
    (should be Amanda?)

    “Example: Ananda phelt [sic] with the flu yesterday.”
    “Example: Ananda felt sic [sic] with the flu yesterday.”

  17. Fred says:

    I have seen some texts use [sic] when quoting politically incorrect quotes, such as:

    “If a teacher wanted to set a child extra homework, he [sic] would need the permission of the principal.”

    Is this common? And should I put the [sic] into the above quote in my own writing? I can see both sides of the argument here…

    • We do not consider this use of [sic] common. There is a similar question in the Q&A section of The Chicago Manual of Style:

      Q. An author has insisted on placing a “sic” after quoting authors who use “him” or “himself” to refer in general to persons rather than using gender-inclusive language. We think this is a bit pretentious and that the quoted material should stand on its own. Do the wise editors have any advice?

      A. The wise editors agree. “Sic” is used to clarify that an error appeared in the original and was not introduced by the writer quoting it. No one reading “him” or “himself” would think it was a typo.

    • Q Squared says:


      In this context the error appears to be one of grammar.

      While he/his are acceptable terms to use in place of a gender nuetral pronoun, when a sentance starts off with the neutrality, the use of gender specific pronoun later does sort of jump at you. (At least that is the case for me).

      When I’m writing I try to keep a neutrality usage consistant throughout the document, but do use and accept “he”, (and also accept authors who use “she” although it isn’t officially gender neutral) my only concern is consisancy for the item being written.

      I find it gives me pause and a moment of confusion (sometimes much longer than a moment!) when the method used changes within some contexts of writing, particularly in reading a quote, especially when the subject may be shifting between a specific person or a collection of people.

      In these sort of scenarios something which was completely clear in context may be clear as mud once the content is quoted.

      So does the original source mean to reference a specific person sited earlier in thier quote which may or may not have made it into the peice?

      In my case I always prefer to replace with [they/thier] or start the quote after that point and indicate the neutrality in the preamble to the quote, when I feel its confusing.

      This seems bwttwr than letting it be up to the user who does not have access to the original source off-hand.

      However, I wouldn’t use ‘sic’ to indicate this if the statement was correct in context, only if it was incorrect in context, which also happens, especially it seems with public speakers.

      Although, to be fair even then I prefer to handle as my example above.


      It sounds like the Chicago formatting guide fails to take into consideration that there are valid contexts within which ‘he’ may be confusing when used as a pronoun, as I assure you I am not a no one.


      • We believe that Fred’s original quote, “If a teacher wanted to set a child extra homework, he would need the permission of the principal,” is grammatically correct without [sic]. The word he is a grammatically correct pronoun for the generic phrase “a teacher,” although like the author, some people would find it unacceptable. If the sentence read “the teacher,” the pronoun he would be incorrect for a female teacher. The Chicago Manual of Style comment that we cited was not necessarily a guide, just an answer to a direct question. They do not elaborate on other contexts in this particular answer.

  18. jmhdsn says:

    May [sic] be used to indicate a word has been left out?

    Ex.: “In my opinion has sufficient vision to drive.”

    It should read, “In my opinion he has sufficient vision to drive.” Should I put [sic] in? I have been told not to make any corrections or additions, except for the use of [sic].

  19. Claire says:

    If the text the error is in is already italicised, do you unitalicise the [sic] or leave it italicised?

  20. don dillman says:

    Does Chuck do the work himself? “He do.” Bad choice of verb. Watching a recent postgame interview with a famous athlete, I counted twenty such “wrong verb” mistakes. If the reporter would have written a newspaper account of that interview, would [sic] have been appropriate to indicate each of those twenty, or has our society changed to a point where such grammar has become acceptable and somewhat the norm?

  21. S says:

    If there is a spelling error rather than a grammar error, do you still use [sic]?

  22. K v Subbarao says:

    Excellently explained. Thank you.

  23. C says:

    Whoever made the use of “sic” possible, why did he/she use “sic” when it sounds like “sick”? Or does it evolve from Latin?

  24. Sara says:

    I am currently writing a formal paper for my English class and a few of the phrases I am quoting contain contractions such as “can’t” and “won’t” Should I put [sic] after them? Thanks!

  25. HPenton says:

    My iPod frequently corrects incorrect intentions or slang. Is (Apple sic) gonna be OK to use in grammar to denote you didn’t intend to write the message that way because it changed just when you hit the send button?

    • That’s a clever idea, but it’s not just Apple products that do this. Normally, the word sic is used to indicate an error. Sic is italicized, surrounded by brackets, placed immediately following the error, and no other word is used in the brackets. We recommend proofreading messages before sending.

  26. Bob says:

    I’m writing a report and quoting a sentence that includes the word “likely” in bold – i.e. “I believe he is likely to be capable of undertaking this”. The original author wrote “likely” in bold specifically to draw attention to it. So is it correct usage to put [sic] after the word likely to indicate that the bold type is what the original author deliberately intended? In the context of my report I don’t want it to appear that it is me that is drawing attention to the word.

    • While commonly placed following a misspelled or wrongly used word in an original document or passage, sic is not generally used to indicate punctuation or typeface errors. We believe that if you write sic after “likely,” readers will assume that the word is spelled incorrectly.

    • M says:

      Hi Bob,

      It is standard to indicate whether bold or italics in a quote were either included in the original text or added later to emphasise a particular point.

      The appropriate way to do this should be indicated in whichever style guide you are using, but as an example, here is a copy and paste from the University of South Australia’s style guide:

      How do I indicate I have added italics to emphasise words within a quote?
      Insert square bracket with ’emphasis added’ after the page number, for example, ‘ … raises the question of what desire is’ (Smith 1991, p. 343 [emphasis added]).

      Do I need to clarify the author’s use of italics within the original when I quote?
      Yes. This is done by inserting square bracket with ‘original emphasis’ added after the page number, for example, ‘identities that are not simple to describe’ (Smith 1991, p. 26 [original emphasis]).

      • Bob asked specifically about using the term sic. His question was in regard to changing the author’s boldface word to regular font. The rules you cited apply to clarification of italics. Perhaps the University of South Australia’s style guide allows “[original emphasis]” to apply to boldface as well.

  27. Jill Madison says:

    I format legal documents at a law firm. Opposing firms send discovery to us for our clients to answer. To prepare these documents, I scan to convert them into our system and format using Styles in Word to create a document that mimics or looks exactly like the one that was sent to use from opposing counsel.

    Styles seems to be an under-used skill by many secretaries … I come across a lot of numbering errors. My question is this: I use (sic) throughout the documents that I format as needed per spelling errors or grammatical errors, but how would I properly indicate an error in numbering since there is an automatic half-inch space between the number and the first word of the sentence in styles? (I use Styles and iHyperstyles when formatting.) I’ve used [(sic)Error in numbering.] before the first word of the sentence ((sic) italicized of course) within the legal documents, however, I’m not sure if this is proper or acceptable on a professional platform.

    What would you suggest?

    • We suggest that you consult a style guide that specializes in legal documents. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, published by the Harvard Law Review Association and the ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional System of Citation, prepared and published by the Association of Legal Writing Directors and Darby Dickerson.

  28. Jill Madison says:

    Why wasn’t my question answered and/or put on the web page? Wasn’t it good enough? I believe it was a very valid question about using (sic) properly in legal documents when numbering is involved … maybe the Host doesn’t know the answer … Hmmmm … the ones that he or she doesn’t know he or she doesn’t allow through. Nice.

    Thanks a lot!

    • Your question was received on February 6, and a response was posted on February 12. We issue a newsletter to over 42,000 subscribers each week and receive about 35,000 different visitors to our website each day, several of whom submit questions to us, which we answer to the best of our abilities. When we received your question, we did not realize that you were the most important person in the world, and that your question should be moved ahead of everyone else’s. We deeply apologize.

  29. Raghav Gupta says:

    I read through the entire thread very patiently, and it is simply brilliant. Thank you! I am sic[k] with happiness! You have totally clarified all my doubts I had, and now I can confidently yews [sic] whenever required!

  30. mjazzguitar says:

    I just saw a paragraph that had number of errors in it.
    Instead of putting (sic) after every word, they just put it in front of the whole paragraph.
    Am I correct in assuming this is incorrect?

  31. Michael says:

    Thank you for this. It was a very straight-forward explanation — exactly what I was looking for.

  32. Adam says:

    How do I acknowledge sensational spelling or intentionally misspelled brand names in formal writing? For example, Froot Loops, Creme Egg, Mortal Kombat, etc. It may seem obvious for the well-known brands, but how would I let the reader know that that is actually the correct spelling for lesser known name brands?

    • Most readers probably recognize the names of the brands you identified and realize the misspelling is intentional. If you feel it is necessary to point out the intentional misspelling of the names, just say so in parentheses in as few words as possible.

  33. Jim says:

    Fido sicked [sic] the burglar.

  34. Crystal T says:

    I am typing up an audio transcript in which the speaker incorrectly uses the word linguistics when she means logistics. Would sic apply in this case? Does it apply when transcribing spoken word vs written?

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