Don’t [sic] people

Rob Walker is sorry. He made a mistake in his NY Times Consumed column. It’s in this quote:

You don’t necessary need old antique books, just books with pages with a yellow tint.

I didn’t even notice until he wrote to take another look; the quotation uses necessary when the author clearly meant to use necessarily. Both the writer and the editor missed it.

He is why he is sorry:

It happens that I have strong feelings about the use of [sic]. Hackish writers deploy this routinely to make whoever they are quoting look stupid. It’s a very cheap move, and a sure sign, in my view, of third-tier writing. It’s acceptable to use [sic] if there’s no way around it, and it’s sometimes excusable to use it if you’re trying to underscore the sloppiness, or stupidity, or whatever, of some powerful figure — if the president of an Ivy League school made a glaring mistake in some official context, maybe that would get a pass. But in general, [sic] is a cheap move — we all make mistakes, typos, little glitches, that mean nothing. This web site is full of such errors — for all I know this post will contain such errors, because I’m writing it quickly, and I don’t have a proofreader, etc. In other words, I’m no different than the person I quoted making some workaday, meaningless error.

His solution would have been to paraphrase the error out of the quotation. This mea culpa of sorts is a lesson worth learning: make other people look good even when they make mistakes. Sure there are times when you can’t get around someone else’s error; but when you can and you don’t, that’s a cheap move.

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