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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, 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 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

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.

A study of more than 200 secondary teaching undergraduates identified high rates of error in general spelling.

When I read articles like the following, and the main group mentioned is the Union, it does make me wonder what the motivation behind the article is.

No teacher will be perfect and in fact no professional is always one hundred per cent correct. My own experience with teachers is they're generally pretty good. With my child's teachers when I asked two teachers from the same year level for the spelling of a word, they used different spelling variations. I thought that could be better. I also asked the English coordinator whether it should be likes and dislikes or like's and dislikes. The answer to me is now obvious, but at the time I struggled with some apostrophe usage. My problem is I often see both forms used which can lead people to use the wrong form or doubt themselves. The answer I received was, "they'd have to ask their partner as they were better than them at that type of thing". Not particularly good for mid-level secondary school.

Even then I still consider this type of issue to be relatively minor. As long as people try to continuously improve their level of skill, in time their knowledge, experience and expertise will exceed all but the most talented students.

Let's be fair. I've watched my skills improve in certain areas over time and I believe that is true for most people. Obviously those who don't meet a minimum acceptable standard for their subject area may need to think again about their choice of occupation if it will impact others they're there to help.

The one thing I do miss that I believe should be provided in online articles, is a link to the actual research. The media tends to exaggerate for a better story and often research articles get published to help the profile of the researcher. Ultimately however a lot of effort goes into the research and most academics I feel try to genuinely provide balanced information. Access to the raw research rather than just snippets of information to grab media attention would be welcome and appreciated.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How can I tell if the word should end in -able or -ible?

I read a post this morning by a journalist (Angus Kidman) who wrote about words ending in -able and -ible. He'd noticed a sign whilst on holidays and realised he didn't know if there was a rule when one ending or the other should be used. You can find the article here.

Angus's article prompted me to investigate. Some will point to the etymology of a word to assist, but that doesn't always help. I decided to pull all the words ending in -able or -ible and see if there is an easier way to know. For me if I'm in doubt the easiest way I know is to use Word Check which is an online tool I wrote.

The dictionary tools I write also mean this is not an issue for me. The leading authoritative references such as the Macquarie and Oxford dictionaries will often list the spelling used the most, but also state other spelling variations. Not particularly helpful. The dictionary tools I write makes it easier as only the preferred Australian English spelling is considered correct and secondary variations are marked as spelling errors. Since I have these dictionary tools installed across all the applications and operating systems I use this is no longer an issue for me.

However I decided to go one step further. In reviewing the words I found there was only 65 base words which contain -ible, whereas there are significantly more words ending in -able. Thus if you take the time to learn the 65 words (many of which are obvious), you'll know if it isn't one of these words then the spelling should be -able. There are a few words with -eble, -oble, or -uble endings, but generally these words are obvious and thus not an issue either.

Many people don't appreciate the time involved in this research. I've spent the last 8-9 years working on the preferred Australian English spelling dictionary so with that I'm well placed to create a list of words. Even then I needed to crosscheck a number of words. This enabled me to find and remove one word which I'd incorrectly added with both spelling variations and add another 10 words I'd not previously included in the dictionary. Overall around two hours of work. Since very few people wish to pay for such information it is highly unlikely the time will ever be recovered.

For those who are interested, I've added a MyAnswers solution which documents the 65 base words ending in -ible which can be found at

The changes to the dictionary as a result of this investigation have now been made to the word list and will be available in the next and future releases of my dictionary work.

Kelvin Eldridge

PS. Whilst not meaning to disparage the article written by Angus, I did notice the usage of the secondary spelling variation spelled, which should be spelt. There is also the use of the hyphen in no-one, which should be no one, without the hyphen. No one is perfect and I've certainly learnt and made a change to my work as a result of reading Angus's article. Thank you Angus.

Friday, January 2, 2015

I and me. Jonathan Holmes' grammatical hate-list article provides excellent examples of when to use I and me.

I find articles like Jonathan's (link provided below) to be very informative. Often when writers are being critical, or as they say pedantic, we are provided with some excellent examples of good and bad usage of our language.

In this case I was particularly interested in the examples of the use of I and me. Jonathan's tip provides an excellent way to decide when it is appropriate to use me. I don't know about you, but certainly I've heard many times over the years that it is not me but I that should be used. After a while you start to use I all the time as that seems to be the correct usage. Jonathan's article however provides a good number of examples and then illustrates that all the examples should have used me or us.

The trick he explains is to drop the second person and then see if the sentence still makes sense if you use me.

Those who follow my work will know my only claim to literary expertise, is to identify the preferred Australian spelling when we are presented with multiple spelling variations. In this area I can be pedantic. In Jonathan's article he uses the spelling spelled instead of spelt.

The problem I find when reading articles both online and offline, is if I see the spelling spelled, this often raises a red flag for me, that I may be reading an article that has been republished from American sources and the content of the article may not always be relevant to Australia.

To put what I've learnt from Jonathan's article I hope I'm correct in the following usage.

I can now see that if I write "Sue asked my wife and I to dinner", that I'm not using I correctly. How do I know? If I change the sentence to "Sue asked me to dinner" that sounds better than "Sue asked I to dinner". Thus the correct usage should be "Sue asked my wife and me to dinner".

I can now also see if I write "My wife and I went to Sue's for dinner" is correct usage, because if I write "Me went to Sue's for dinner" it doesn't sound correct.

The trick of dropping the second person from the sentence helps to determine if you're using I or me correctly.

Now of course this does mean I have to assume that what Jonathan has shared is correct and we shouldn't always make that assumption. As a pedant Jonathan should be as pedantic on the usage of spelled and spelt but isn't, so we should now look for additional authoritative resources to ensure what we have learnt is correct.

In this case I first checked the Macquarie Dictionary site but couldn't find anything quickly. I then used Google and found the British Oxford site which I consider authoritative for such purposes. You can see the Oxford shares the same tip (

I don't know about others, but for me, my interest in the preferred spelling often leads me to learn more about our language gradually improving my skills. Today I learnt a little more about the use of the pronouns I and me. I hope that you've also enjoyed sharing this journey with me.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.