When quoting the spoken word, and if one particular word is difficult to distinguish, how does one properly indicate the uncertainty if that particular word has been quoted correctly?

The following quote gave rise to the question

Every stuffed shirt who wants to pass for erudite has shelves full of unread books. None of the spines on these has ever been cracked.

Except for this one.

— Sherlock Holmes, The Rat Race

where I could not be entirely certain that I heard "stuffed" correctly (but have been able to confirm this with other sources). Nevertheless, the problem may present itself at another time. Would a question mark in brackets been appropriate? I.e.

Every stuffed[?] shirt who wants to pass for erudite...

1 Answer 1


Yes, that's exactly the way I'd indicate that you as the writer/transcriber are uncertain if the word you're indicating is correct. As long as you're making it clear that you're quoting something, as a reader I would be very clear on what that mark meant.

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