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  1. Nov 8, 2011 #1
    When I read history books, I found there are some words written inside square brackets. What does that mean?

    See my attachment

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  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 8, 2011 #2


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    That normally suggests that the passage is a quote that has been edited and so needs words added to make sense.
  4. Nov 8, 2011 #3

    Simon Bridge

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    This would be correct - sections enclosed by square brackets inside a quotation are not part of the original text being quoted. There are lots of reasons for adding bits like this - usually to shorted the quote, comment, clarify, or shift blame.

    n the second example, Carlyle is being quoted ... the start of the quote is "[A]ll" ... this tells you that the passage quoted is from the middle of a sentence - the actual word written was "all" but the rules of English mean it now needs a capital. Since that is not what Carlyle wrote, the cap has to be in square brackets.

    Missing parts of the quote are indicated by elipses "..." (three dots). The Carlyle quote is so heavily edited we'd call it a "franken-quote" almost - a monster edited together from many parts.

    This leaves "[sic]" which means "that is really how it appears in the original" - otherwise a grammar or spelling mistake in the original, and faithfully quoted, may be blamed on the author.

    eg. Ryan_m_b wrote (above):
    "[T]he passage is a quote that [sic] has been edited ... to make sense [of it]."
  5. Nov 8, 2011 #4
    For reference, here is the original. Don't worry, it's in the public domain. If you compare the quotation to the original, you will see the meaning of the brackets and the ellipses. As Simon Bridge pointed out, [sic] refers to the fact that the word 'were', just before it, is incorrect but reported verbatim (in other words, blame Carlyle, not me). Sic is the latin word for 'so'.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  6. Nov 8, 2011 #5
    Thx for these useful information!
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