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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 (instead of chose). 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.

Originally asked here https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/567310/grammatically-wrong-quote

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    Why do you believe that you can't use "sic" in a formal paper? May 19, 2021 at 20:09
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    Does this answer your question? Quoting a typo: Do I really have to do "sic", or can I just fix the sentence?
    – Anyon
    May 19, 2021 at 20:16
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    @DanielHatton (Copied from my old comment on the sister website) I don't about other areas, but in science/technology where I work on, would be considered a cheap way to discredit others. It is acceptable/understandable there will be editorial mistakes (the paper is about some other topic, and it is fine so long it makes unambiguous sense). In certain cases, where we see the result is indeed wrong, we say it politically correctly (e.g., we are not able to reproduce the same result). In all likelihood, pointing out editorial mistake would be taken badly by the community.
    – hola
    May 19, 2021 at 20:33
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    @hola A competition? May 20, 2021 at 16:12
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    It'd be worth checking to see if any subsequent erratum has been issued for the work; if so, you can obviously quote from the corrected material, with appropriate citation.
    – CCTO
    May 20, 2021 at 18:57

2 Answers 2

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On both the original EL&U post and this one, people have asked "why do you believe that you cannot you use "[sic]" in a formal paper? On the EL&U post, you wrote:

I don't [sic] about other areas, but in science/technology where I work on [sic], [sic] would be considered a cheap way to discredit others. It is acceptable/understandable there will [sic] be editorial mistakes (the paper is about some other topic, and it is fine so long [sic] it makes unambiguous sense). In certain cases, [sic] where we see [sic] the result is indeed wrong, we say it politically correctly (e.g., we are not able to reproduce the same result [quotes missing in original]). In all likelihood, pointing out editorial mistake would be taken badly by the community.

So the perceived issue is not really about formality, but about offending the original authors. And indeed, quotes with many mistakes will require many instances of [sic] (as above), which hinders readabilty and, I agree, seems rather passive-aggressive.

On the other hand, you absolutely must not "fix" quotes. Even benign changes can cause problems; for example, think about how many well-meaning editors might change "iff" to "if" in a math paper. It is probably acceptable to insert missing words in brackets [like this], but that's probably as far as you can go.

So, to your question, I would suggest the following:

  1. If there is a single mistake you could either use [sic] or (in the case of a missing word) insert the missing word in brackets. No reasonable author should be offended by this.
  2. If there are many mistakes, you should probably not quote it at all. Instead, summarize it in your own words. As a last resort, if you absolutely cannot avoid quoting a lengthy, error-ridden passage, you could say something like "[spelling and grammar errors in original]"; this would at least reduce the awkwardness to a single sidebar rather than peppering the quote with [sic]s as I did above.
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    I think your feedback gives me perspective I was looking for.
    – hola
    May 19, 2021 at 20:34
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    Softer phrasings of point 2: "[unaltered spelling and grammar]" or even just "[reproduced verbatim]".
    – henning
    May 20, 2021 at 7:29
  • yeah, that's perhaps more diplomatic :-)
    – cag51
    May 21, 2021 at 3:43
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You can certainly use [sic] in a formal paper. There are plenty of contexts where [sic] is too formal (it is, after all, Latin), but I can't think of any where it is not formal enough.

If there are multiple mistakes, I see no reason why you can't just put a single [sic] at the end of the quotation, and this is much less distracting than peppering them throughout (this also avoids the danger that you fail to spot one of the errors, leaving the reader to worry whether you introduced it). Using [sic] simply attests that you have reproduced the quotation exactly. You don't need to indicate which part(s) you have reproduced exactly, because that should always be "all of it".

If you are using LaTeX, you could even include "sic" in the citation with \cite[sic]{MyRef} after the quote, which will appear as e.g. "This sentence has a typos" [4, sic].

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