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Saturday, January 31, 2015

In an article what does the word sic mean and how should sic be used?

I was reading an article today and in the quoted section of text I noticed the word sic appearing in brackets and thought, I really should look sic up. I've seen sic often but have never taken the time to check out what sic really means and how sic should be used. I have a general feeling what sic may mean, and I'm sure many others learn things from context as I have, but in this case I thought it was time to investigate further. I'm glad I did as what I found uncovered an interesting variation between Australian and American English.

The word sic is Latin and means thus. I don't usually quote Wikipedia as I don't feel Wikipedia is an authoritative reference and contains many errors. In addition Wikipedia can lead people to incorrect information as it doesn't qualify the information sufficiently in many cases and rarely for Australian usage. Thus Australians can mistakenly use Wikipedia as a reference think they're correct, but they end up using American English. However, in this case the entry in Wikipedia beings with, The Latin adverb sic ("thus"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written") and I thought that information was worth sharing.

What this is saying is, the writer of the article wants to show the quote is being written as it was originally written and that the writer has not introduced an error. The effect of sic is to call attention to the reader the original text may have a spelling, grammatical error, or perhaps some other issue the reader is to be made aware off.

The Wikipedia entry also mentioned another point I found very interesting. In America the general convention is to place the word sic within square brackets, whereas in Britain the convention is to use parentheses or as some like to call them, curved or round brackets. A check of the Macquarie Dictionary does not provide guidance on formatting, but The Australian Oxford Dictionary provides an example shows round brackets are used.

The word sic being a foreign language word is often written in italics. The word sic is not an abbreviation and thus sic should not end with a full stop.

For me this information is great to know. I've often had the need to quote text which contains an error and on the one hand, I don't wish to change the text as that is not how it originally appeared, but on the other, I don't want to share an error which may mislead people. The word sic however does have one drawback that needs to be considered. When you point out an error in text by others, in effect you can end up diminishing the perceived value of the text. For some that will be helpful, but for others they will see this as the writer being condescending. You won't be able to keep everyone happy. My feeling is, if you can contact the original writer ask if it is OK to change the text. If you can't contact the writer, then it is probably better to use sic. I think it is better to aim for higher standards and lead by example. You never know when someone reading your work will benefit from what you've learnt.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Disappointed that Woolworths can't be bothered with correct punctuation in their Everyday Rewards email.

I received an Everyday Rewards email this morning and couldn't believe the poor use of punctuation. Three punctuation errors on their blackboard. Can you spot them?

Greengrocers and often held up for their examples of bad punctuation, but in this case this would be a communications section of Woolworths creating the material, so there is no excuse for poor punctuation. If anything, it makes you wonder what they're trying to do. Are they trying to make it look like they're the local greengrocer? It simply makes no sense for Woolworths to drop the standard of their communication.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When you see signs promoting bottled water to stay hydrated, keep in mind it is just marketing and may be misleading.

Earlier this year I became aware of a European ruling which, from what I understand, basically means businesses should not market bottled water was a way to stay hydrated. The problem I feel is using words which have a medical meaning and then the words start to be used by marketers. A good sounding official word lends credibility to the claim which helps sell the product. This leads to misinformation and people making poor decisions with regards to their health. The above sign is displayed at Hungry Jack's in Eltham.

I'm not expert in this area, but I have watched one person who was advised by a doctor to drink plenty of liquids (a well known sports drink) which resulted in them being severely dehydrated (having depleted salts from their body) and ended up in hospital for quite some time in a very dire medical situation.

What I found interesting is it appears Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer of the Institute for Food Science and Human Nutrition at Hanover Leibniz University mounted a test case and the outcome doesn't appear to what they necessarily wanted.


From this article in the Daily Mail, it appears to me they were looking for a way to market products, whereas the test case worked against that outcome. Here is a link to the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Scientific Opinion.


On the one hand I'm disappointed, although it should be expected, that scientists would use their skills for advertising, what is good, is the scientific opinion seems to have produced the appropriate outcome. Dehydration is a medical condition and marketers shouldn't use words which may mislead people for the sake of business profits.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

Friday, January 23, 2015

First version of Crossword Helper is now live.

For a while I've been wanting to write a crossword helper. You know, a tool where you could enter the letters you know and leave out the letters you don't and you'll get a list of suitable words. I'm not quite there yet, but I decided as a first step I'd release the Crossword Helper web app so those doing crosswords or playing scrabble can check a word.

If there is sufficient interest based on the traffic I get to www.CrosswordHelper.com.au, I'll put in the time to create the crossword helper that does what I mentioned above. Now not trying to encourage people to cheat, but I've found in my own testing of concepts the approach can be really good for playing hangman as well.

Please feel free to visit www.CrosswordHelper.com.au. The more visitors showing interest the more I'll be encouraged to put in the required time.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Perhaps some of our politicians need a refresher in spelling as MP Jo-Ann Miller's sign on her car shows.

I read this article and had a little chuckle.


Jo-Ann is of course not alone in having a sign made up for her car containing a spelling error. The problem here is anyone who sends and email to the address on the sign will probably have the email bounce.

How many times have you seen incorrect spelling in a sign on a vehicle?

I see spelling errors all the time. You'd would think if the business doing the work doesn't pick up the error, the person paying hard earned money would. Perhaps not in this case as it is probably paid for through an expense and not out of their own pocket. Luckily the sign looks like a magnetic sign so can easily be replaced.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Article by Phillip Thomson in the Canberra times made my grit my teeth for two reasons.

I noticed the following article advising new graduates to use a spell checker and when I see that, I can't help feeling the journalist really needs to get better tools. The spelling is spellchecker.


Here is the paragraph that I feel is substandard advice and shows people, including journalists, are totally unaware of major issues with the writing tools they use.

"Before they send an email or document a graduate should use the automatic spell checker and make sure it's set to Australian English, not American."

I've already mentioned above the Phillip's incorrect spelling spell checker, but the problem with using the automatic spellchecker is even if you set it to Australian English, many people consider certain spelling variations such as organization to be an American spelling. If you include such spelling variations in your resume or cover letter, it is possible your correspondence will disadvantage you. In Australia both organisation and organization are valid spelling variations, with organisation being the most widely used and what I term the preferred Australian English spelling, but many people consider the ize spelling variation to be the American spelling.

Now you can argue until your blue in the face that you're right, but then you're now also argumentative. Even if you get to an interview, are you really then going to argue with a possible future employer. No, or at least you shouldn't.

The problem isn't you, it is the tools you're using. It took me decades to realise this and once I did I decided to do something about it. I created the preferred Australian English spelling files which can be added to Microsoft Office on Windows and Macs, and also have an Australian dictionary in development which can be installed as a native dictionary under OS X. The files I produce cover Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer under Windows, and Microsoft Office, Safari and all applications running on a Mac which use the built in spellchecker. You can find the dictionary files at www.Australian-Dictionary.com.au.

So if you're a new graduate don't take the chance that people think you can't spell because "they're" wrong. Don't make spelling an issue. Use the right tools to improve your chances of getting off to a good start in your career.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling files.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

One in five online daters missing out due to spelling errors in their online profiles.

I came across the following article which I must admit had me initially confused. The article's heading was about grammatical errors and yet the article seemed to jump all over the place. It took a little effort to read but in the end it turns out an online dating service survey of members showed that 20% of people would discard other members based on spelling errors in their profiles.


I like to find examples of where spelling matters, but I'd never thought much about dating services providing such an example. It does make sense. If people don't care enough to attempt to get their spelling correct in the online dating profile, it can and now apparently does leave doubt in the mind of others.

Interestingly the journalist Ian Watson of ACT News made the statement, Readers, do you find poor spelling unforgivable? If this column opened with a spelling mistake (like "Perrygrin" or perhaps "Carillion") would you stop reading? Would you instantly dismiss this columnist as a bogan ignoramus?

Now as to suggest Ian is a bogan ignoramus I would never go that far, however I did notice some inappropriate use of hyphens which to me does reduce his professionalism and thus credibility slightly. It would however not stop me from reading the article as I'm receiving information I'm interested in at effectively no cost. However if I was buying something, poor spelling is a flag that to me can and does make a difference.

The examples of poor spelling or use of secondary spellings in the article are: mis-spelled, mis-used, spelled. However these are relatively minor and I found the article interesting once I'd grown accustom to Ian's style.

This should be a heads up for those using online dating services. If you can't spell then get a friend who can to help you. A little extra effort may increase your chances of a date by 25%, so why not make the effort. No point making your life harder than it need be.

Kelvin Eldridge
Creator of the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary.