Written by Frank Cotolo

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Sunday, 30 May 2004

When you learn to write, and I don’t mean the alphabet, I mean after you got that stuff down and put words and sentences together and thoughts and feelings and … stuff … you learn that the communication process should involve a reader.

Once you have a reader, then you have to be sure that you know what you are writing is clear and moreover, that the reader knows what you are writing is clear.

So, lots of little tricks come into play.

I cannot possibly discuss all of the tricks, because some are secret and should not be told to readers. Sometimes a writer wants to trick the reader with tricks the reader doesn’t know are being used, thus tricking the reader with the unknown trick. Other times, the writer has to tell the reader there is a trick.

One of the more useful tricks is to make meaning clearer by using the symbol [sic]. When you use [sic] you are telling the reader that you meant to spell something a strange way or in a certain style, to emphasize … stuff. So if I were to use an uncommon or even wrong word or phrase, I would do it with this symbol. Here are some examples.

The little boy could not splell [sic].

Here I am telling you the little boy could not spell by misspelling the word “spell” and to let you know I know I am misspelling the word spell, I use [sic]. See, I intentionally misspelled the word “spell.”

The little boy couldn’t slell [sic] because he saw words sdrawkcab [sic].

Here I play cleverly on the word “backwards” by spelling it backwards, and making the reader read it backwards. Now you have a clearer picture of the boy who could not spell and why he could not spell.

The little boy couldn’t slell [sic] because he saw words sdrawkcab [sic] and it caused people to think he was stoopid [sic].

Here I have made a joke, sort of a self-effacing joke, writing the word “stupid” incorrectly, to emphasize the meaning of the word “stupid” by spelling it in a stupid way. The little boy has a mental challenge, but I make myself, the writer, look stupid by spelling stupid incorrectly and making the people who judge the boy by calling him stupid took stupider [sic] and thus make a social commentary on stupidosity [sic] and how the really stoopid [sic] peeple [sic] are those who are judgematic [sic].

So, what does “sic” mean? It means “exactly this way.” Or, in cow language, “no utter [sic] way.” Or, as the electrician asked, “Just watt [sic] do you mean?”

Thank you for your attention. Now go right [sic] something.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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