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If there is a language error in a sentence from an official source, and we are quoting it here, should we correct the error or not?

For example in this answer, I quoted this:

...visitors need to need to apply for a temporary residence permit...

from an information article posted by a website associated with the Romanian National Tourist Office. Is it better to correct the error in the sentence, or leave it like it was in the original source? Maybe insert "(sic)" after the error?

I've posted this particular example to English SE.

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  • Give me a clue. What's the error?
    – Berwyn
    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:10
  • @Berwyn It's easy to miss. I didn't notice it either until Vince corrected it for me. But "need to" is written two times consecutively.
    – Fiksdal
    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:15
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    Heh! I read it 10 times on the original site too! I think you should just correct it then
    – Berwyn
    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:16
  • @Berwyn Funny how our minds tend to look for the meanings and ignore the details, huh?
    – Fiksdal
    Jun 8, 2016 at 12:19
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    @Fiksdal waht are yuo takling abuot? Jun 8, 2016 at 23:42
  • @HeidelBerGensis Haha :)
    – Fiksdal
    Jun 9, 2016 at 4:41
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    @HeidelBerGensis: teachertube.com/video/what-are-you-sinking-about-227229
    – WGroleau
    Jun 18, 2016 at 8:08
  • @WGroleau lol :)
    – Fiksdal
    Jun 28, 2016 at 19:06

2 Answers 2

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Great question!

The content should not be changed because then it becomes an 'altered' citation. That's a bad thing.

When professionals find situations like these, they use an editorial convention, "sic" in square brackets...

used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original...

So in your case, the amended citation would read...

visitors need to need [sic] to apply for a temporary residence permit...

Doing this shows a disciplined approach to fixing grammatical errors in citations and gives the site a more professional standing. Educated readers will understand and appreciate it.

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In some cases, I'd argue it's appropriate to fix the typo - when it is truly a typo and does not change the meaning of the sentence. Most commonly that would be with spelling mistakes. This also applies to modifying the part of speech or the capitalization of a sentence quoted in another sentence, or replacing an out of context pronoun with its noun.

In that case, you make your correction in square brackets.

Were you to do that here, you would do it like so:

... visitors [need to] apply for a temporary residence permit...

That makes it clear that you made a modification to that part of the citation, which is perfectly permissible even in professional documents when it does not change the meaning of the citation.

In particular, this is helpful for non-english-first readers, who may have difficulty parsing the syntax of a sentence like the above.

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