This question is motivated by my attempt to complement [sic] with some text to clarify the original errors. I wanted to elucidate that the original website erroneously displayed two quotation marks with:

ODO, Definition 1. sic {adverb} = used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original...

So far as sic resides in brackets, did I enlarge on sic grammatically and rightly?
Can I use sic, of Latin origin, with other words?


Sic is not an English word, it’s a Latin word. So, it’s normally italicized when it appears in English text. It’s Latin for "thus". People put it in brackets when quoting text to indicate that what might appear to be a transcription error is actually faithful to the original. It’s short for sic erat scriptum, which is Latin for "Thus it was written" or "It was written this way."

Sic is an adverb in Latin, but it’s not normally put into an English sentence. It’s not like pace, mutatis mutandis, ceteris paribus, i.e., e.g., etc., which commonly do appear untranslated within English sentences and perform English grammatical roles. Sic usually goes in brackets all by itself, right after the word or passage that a reader might reasonably think is a transcription error, like this:

The monster’s diary said on p. 52, "Dr. Frankenstein’s work effected [sic] my judgement."

A reader might think this is a common mistake: confusing affect for effect. But the monster really does mean effect as a verb, since Dr. Frankenstein’s work really did accomplish the creation of the monster’s ability to judge.

Bryan Garner has some comments about its use in legal writing here, including some common ways that people use it disparagingly or ironically, such as to unnecessarily point out a spelling error in a quotation. That’s really an abuse of sic. It's proper to correct typographical errors when quoting, unless an error is material to the reason you’re quoting it. Garner suggests that the insulting usage of [sic] is currently the most common; the need for the ordinary, legitimate use of [sic] is pretty unusual.

Of course, this is English, so if you want to use sic in some new, creative way, like as an adverb in an English sentence, or even as a verb with a terminal -ing, you can. It’s best to become familiar with the customary usage first, of course, so you can judge how far you can stretch existing custom and still be understood (and not be thought to be making an error, which someone will no doubt insultingly quote with a [sic]—sic’ing it to you, you might say).

  • "Sic" is used as a verb. Specifically, it is the command used by many dog owners to tell their dog to attack someone. Common derived forms: sic'em, sicced, siccing -- all of which look misspelled. – Jasper Jan 26 '15 at 4:07
  • @Jasper I'm afraid my answer explains too much already; if I added every word that's spelled like the word the OP asked about, I expect I'd only cause more confusion. "Sic" meaning "attack" is not Latin; it comes pretty recently from "seek", and is also spelled "sick". There's also a "sic" in Scottish dialect, which is a synonym for "such". Sic a can of worms tae sic upon oursels! – Ben Kovitz Jan 26 '15 at 5:15

[sic] Is normally used to point out that you intended to write something in this exact way (thus!).

Yes, you can mark these quotation marks with [sic] but i do not think you need to elaborate why.

Yes [sic] has other applications. It is mostly used for quotations and "copied" words but it can as well be used in other context. E.g if the orthography of "gangsta rap" is possibly unclear to your readers you would write "gangsta rap"[sic!]. Exclamation mark optional.


Well, the only way you can use sic (the Latin one) is to indicate that the cited text was exactly as you presented it, when there is some oddity you wouldn't have put there (e.g. a misspelling).

I like the way you explained about the quotation marks, because otherwise we might have tried to find what was unusual about the preceding word. I have never seen explanation anywhere else with "sic", but yours is the first case I have seen where explanation seems needed.

"sic" is a special case, and does not behave like other sdverbs. It doesn't attach to any verb; it's not a sentence adverb, as it "modifies" only the word before it (or short quoted passage); and it can "modify" ANY part of speech (a pronoun, a preposition, an interjection, anything!)

I hope you are aware of the other, English word sic, used in referring to setting your dog to attacking someone. This is a verb that can be conjugated.

  • I have no clue why the dictionary would call it an adverb. It is more of an interjection, it does not need to be connected to any verb. And unlike sentence adverbs, it "modifies" only the word next to it, which can be any part of speech. It is embedded commentary about that word. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 25 '15 at 9:49

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