Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ever-Intrusive [sic]

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

The hour to vent has arrived - yes...I tend to get annoyed from time to time. You know that little Latin adverb that you sometimes find bracketed at the end of quoted sentences or passages? It's there indicating that the quote was transcribed exactly, but that it contained errors in spelling or some other incorrect information.

The use of [sic] drives me nuts. What may be no big deal or even a minor annoyance to you I find to be horribly and inexcusably intrusive. It breaks up the flow of the stands out like an irritating blemish on an otherwise clean disrupts like a cell phone going off at the end of Titanic. I can't stand them - they are entirely redundant as well. If a passage has been set apart with quotation marks, should we not be aware that it is an exact transcription - errors and all?

I have been reading Harold Holzer's book on Lincoln at Cooper Union. This is a book I find thoroughly fascinating and well executed. But those little [sic] notations keep finding their way into the text and spoiling my otherwise enjoyable experience. I believe that an informed public will be more than aware that when a spelling error occurs in a quoted passage it is the original author's, not the esteemed Mr. Holzer's mistake.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson explained in a foreword to Cause and Comrades that he would avoid using [sic] and instead make slight corrections to the text - but only when it eased the flow of reading. I don't even think that is a good idea. Let's just leave historical actors' words alone. If you have to explain why you are doing what you are doing in an introductory statement then so be it.

Okay - now that I have gotten that off of my chest and can get through the rest of the day. It's the little things, you know.




  1. Picky, picky, picky! But seriously, I too found this book to be a fascinating read. The Cooper Union speech, which propelled Lincoln to the Presidency demonstrates Lincoln's analytical skills and makes abundantly clear his position on the slavery issue.

  2. Ha! Yeah...I am going a little overboard on this one. Sometimes the tiniest things get to me. Great book though, I am really enjoying it. Next I am reading his book on the Emancipation Proclamation. I will be reviewing that one for a Lincoln journal.