Note: There are many usages of ‘sic’ in the written word, some more obscure than others. This article focuses only on the most common usage.
‘Sic’ literally means “thus.” It is used very frequently in articles, and most people come across it almost daily. It is most commonly used to indicate that a quotation from a person or source has been copied to the letter, ‘warts and all,’ complete with incorrect spelling or phrasing (if any.)
Sic first appeared in English use in the late 19th century. It comes from the Latin sic erat scriptum, which means ‘that it was written.’
Sic is such a common term in everyday reading and writing that you rarely see it misused or used improperly. However, it can be, and often is, mistaken for an acronym, such as ‘said in copy.’ Where this incorrect use originated from is unclear. It can also sometimes mistakenly be treated as an abbreviation, i.e. written as [sic.] No full stop should follow the word.
‘Sic’ should be placed in brackets (as in (sic) or [sic]) or italicised (sic). It is usually placed after a direct quote in an article, usually where the ‘quotee’ has used slang or misspelt or mispronounced a word. It can also be used after foreign languages. For example:
‘In his email to The Daily Blah, Bob said that “the book is definately [sic] red.”’
‘When telling the story of catching a would-be instrument thief, singer Ima Vokelist tells us: “I said, ‘you stay away from them [sic] guitars!’”’