I am a ballet historian and I read a lot of 19th-c French ballet libretti, as well as manuscript staging manuals. I am accustomed to seeing words without the "t" that we have in the 21st century (for example, instans, instrumens, puissans, vêtemens). (I also see "tems" instead of "temps".) I am about to publish a transcription of a French libretto -- should I put the word "sic" after words with these spellings? I'm used to it and do not find it jarring, but a French friend of mine thinks that the "sic" is a good idea. Thanks!

  • You may put the unchanged word in italic with a footnote on the first occurrence or use "sic" after the word enclosing it between parenthesis -> "(sic)".
    – Graffito
    Apr 26, 2023 at 10:40
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    This site can give good general-purpose guidance, but since you’re in a specialist field, the norms and expectations are at least as important as more general guidance! Look over some other modern editions of historical libretti, comparable to yours in their aims and audience — what do the best-quality ones do about this? Apr 28, 2023 at 10:24
  • Marianne, the exposition suggests you're Asking not about French Language but about English translations. How much did I miss, there? in English or French, where does the 't' that we have in the 21st C come from? No-one's told my ignorant ears that English or French or translation either way has changed in the 21st C, or in any other way. Can you say where you see, eg, instans, instrumens, puissans, vêtemens gaining 'T', or 'tems" instead of 'temps'? Apr 30, 2023 at 16:38
  • Hi! I SO appreciate all of these responses! Thank you very much. I decided to put in a footnote after the transcription to explain that I'm using the original spellings, but I am not adding "sic" in the document because, as one of you said, it really interrupts the flow. Robbie Goodwin: I am not translating this libretto; I am transcribing it. A French friend of mine was taken aback by the old-fashioned spellings and wanted me to add "sic" for each occurrence.
    – Marianne
    May 1, 2023 at 20:19

2 Answers 2


I think a note at the beginning of the transcription explaining it's using older spelling would be better.

I don't know how often those words come up, but having "sic" every couple words could make the text cluttered and hard to read for little benefit. The reader would also get used to it after the first few ones.


Don't use [sic] in the transcription. It is reserved to signal preserved original document typos, grammatical mistakes or surprising usage while in that case, the spelling was unremarkable.

What you might do is either to write a note as Teleporting Goat has already suggested, either at the beginning of the document or as a simple footnote, or better yet, simply adjust the French document to use modern spelling.

If the goal is not to show what French orthography looked like a few centuries ago, there is no need to keep obsolete spelling.

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    We do use [sic] to signal things that are simply accurately quoted (despite appearances), not just mistakes. Particularly if it might otherwise be perceived as a mistake on the editor's part. But I agree that it's better to have a global note rather than constant interruption of the text.
    – Luke Sawczak
    Apr 26, 2023 at 10:46
  • @Luke Oui, c'est vrai. Ma réponse était ambiguë à ce sujet. J'ai essayé de redresser le tir.
    – jlliagre
    Apr 26, 2023 at 11:13

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