Sic and Viz.

Yesterday I promised I would address in today’s Tip of the Day the two other abbreviations that Sameer had asked about: sic and viz.

Sic is actually a Latin word that means “thus” or “in such a manner.” It is not a contraction for “spelling is correct,” although that myth has gone viral. The term is used after some quoted verbiage that was transcribed exactly, but has a mistake or typo in it. This is to let people know the original author made the mistake, not the person quoting him or her. This can be either useful, as in the case of a journalist letting her editor know that this is what the original technical paper reported, or it can be mean and insulting, as in the case of pointing out that the high school graduate put 1775 instead of 1776 as the date that the Declaration of Independence was signed.

There is a correct way to use sic. Because it is a Latin word, it should be in italics, as all foreign words should be in an English composition. It should also be either in brackets [sic] or parentheses (sic) immediately following the quoted verbiage. Note that
neither the brackets nor the parentheses are in italics, just the sic.

Now, to answer Sameer’s question: Do they find a place in technical reports?
Well, that depends. If you are quoting a Core Lab report that had a typo in a particular sample depth, and you want to show that it was not the correct depth, you could write:

According to the Core Lab report, “Sample 36B, which was taken at 3684.5 ft [sic], had a porosity of 28%,” but the well log showed that Sample 36B, which was actually taken at 3784.5 ft, had a porosity of only 14%.

I would say that sic should only be used in technical writing to point out incorrect information in quoted sources – without humiliating or embarrassing the original author, if you can help it. You will probably end up working with them or for them on some project in the future, and so you shouldn’t burn any bridges by making them look stupid.

Viz. is the abbreviation for the Latin word videlicet, which itself is an abbreviation for videre licet, which means “it is permitted to see” or “it can be seen.” Viz. is usually read as “namely,” but it is often used in the sense of “as follows.”

The petrophysical properties, viz., porosity, permeability, and water saturation, were distributed in between the wells using variograms in the simulation software.

While not generally italicized, there is always a period and either a comma (,) or a colon (:) immediately following viz.

Personally, I prefer to use “namely” or i.e., which means “that is” instead of viz. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Viz. Quote of the Day:
“Every Englishman is convinced of one thing, viz.: That to be an Englishman is to belong to the most exclusive club there is.”
(Hey, that rhymes, too!)
– Ogden Nash, American poet, 1902-1971


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