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I just wanted to make sure I am approaching this correctly: I am working on a nonfiction historical biography about a missionary. When quoting sources which use archaic spellings of places/words, do I need to note the non-normative spelling at all? I assume that [sic] would be inappropriate in this case but am not sure if I should use brackets to correct the spelling, or if that is more distracting.

For example, here is a quote from someone writing from Hong Kong in the early 1900s (this quote is in the book):

“We are continually being asked why we do not leave Hongkong... To say the least the Seed must be sown and the Lord will look after the developement [Emphasis mine]."

Hongkong is an archaic spelling of Hong Kong, same with developement. I don't want them to look like unintentional errors on my part, but also don't want to distract the reader unnecessarily.

Thank you!!

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  • Though there are a few examples online of developement as an obsolete spelling, it could just as well be a spelling error. Oct 27, 2022 at 14:57
  • Fortunately, "[sic[" can also indicate transcripted grammar and spelling errors.
    – Mary
    Dec 4, 2022 at 19:31

2 Answers 2

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It's legible, comprehensible, no actual need to edit. I think it'll be best if you leave the quotes intact.

I don't think you strictly need to note that you didn't make any edits, but if you're worried about it looking like your mistake, I'd suggest including a short note stating that you left the spelling of all quoted English documents as originally written, either at the beginning or at the end of the work, or when the first quoted document comes up. That way it will be clear it's not on you, and no distracting marks in the quotes themselves.

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What you do is write:

We are continually being asked why we do not leave Hongkong[sic]... To say the least the Seed must be sown and the Lord will look after the developement [sic]."

"[sic]" literally means "Yes, this is not a typo but the original wording."

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