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In this answer, the quote provided from Roll20 incorrectly capitalizes the "a" in attack.

In this situation, should we:

  1. Fix the quote so it's correct but leave the citation link
  2. Fix the quote so it's correct and link or cite a source that is correct
  3. Leave it alone and let downvotes sort out the inaccuracy
  4. Something else
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    \$\begingroup\$ For background: roll20 automatically hyperlinks and capitalizes terms that appear elsewhere in the site resulting in many terms that were not capitalized in original sources being capitalized on roll20. One of the most significant ways this is bad for citations is in the case of "Attack" which, in 5e, has a specific mechanical difference from "attack". \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 3 '18 at 12:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Interesting. That suggests there is an inherent problem with Roll20 and maybe we need a Meta determining it's use as a source here. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch -- and the majority of V2Bkast's links to dndbeyond are inaccessable. \$\endgroup\$ – ravery Aug 3 '18 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ravery: Many DnDB links are behind paywalls sure (there are also many that are freely accessible including the material relevant here), but what does that have to do with the accuracy of the source? We actually have a meta discussing DnDBeyond links: Stance on using D&D Beyond for references? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 3 '18 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ravery This isn't about preferred sources - it's about a preference for correct information. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ In addition, except for the Basic Rules/SRD, primary sources are all behind paywalls (purchase a book). \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 17:12
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When you're quoting something, it's important to quote it accurately—don't misrepresent the source as saying something it doesn't. However, we can add revision, or indicate that there is an inaccuracy in the quote.

Let's work with an example here: A well-known RPG has a line that says:

You must foo the sprocket.

A theoretical third party source called Roll6 accidentally wrote “bar” instead of “foo” (oops!):

You must bar the sprocket.

What not to do

Don't revise the quote and present it like that's the original text.

You must foo the sprocket. — Roll6 SRD

You're misrepresenting the source. This is generally considered unethical from an editorial point of view.

Good ways to resolve an error in a quoted source

Notify the source they have an error! If you can edit it (like with Wikipedia), double-check your official sources then edit the third-party source to represent the official sources correctly.

As for citing an incorrect third-party source:

  1. Find a different, more accurate source which does not have the error, such as the official source. Cite and quote that instead:

    You must foo the sprocket. — Example RPG core rules, page 7

  2. Indicate the error with a (sic) marker, in which case you may write in your post:

    You must bar (sic) the sprocket. — Roll6 SRD

    Note: Roll6 incorrectly says we bar the sprocket, but should be saying we foo it.

  3. Indicate your correction by using square brackets, and note the correction you made:

    You must [foo] the sprocket. — Roll6 SRD

    (Note the original sources says to foo, which I'm correcting here. Roll6 has an error in its transcription.)

    Square brackets aren't exclusively a tool for correction, but they're there for when we're adding or changing words to make it clear that is our change and not in the original quote.

I prefer approach #1 since it avoids all the extra effort involved in #2 or #3, but if that's not possible then #2 or #3 are about equal.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you're right on this, but from a site management perspective is that what we want to do? Is it better to note that there is an error in the source or is it better to change the source and quote to what's actually correct? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ #3 seems like the best balance between preserving source integrity, readability, and clarity of change. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 3 '18 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch We never want to misrepresent a quote. Not misrepresenting quotes is what we should want to aim for from a site management perspective. It's part of being a reliable source ourselves. Misrepresenting a quote is generally considered unethical—we'd be lying. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 3 '18 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener if I am interpretating naut's question correctly, i think he was asking which one of your options replacing the source or correcting the faulty source (as you suggested) would be better. I could be wrong though. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 3 '18 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh. Changing to a correct source (option #1) or pointing out an error in an incorrect source (options #2 or #3) are equal. Do whichever works. #1 is listed first for a reason though, it's usually most preferable. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 3 '18 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree we don't want to misrepresent a quote, I'm also pretty sure we don't want incorrect information either. It sounds like your suggestion is to alter the quote source and quote to be correct rather than leave the someone's original up with a correction. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That's usually preferable if possible — it's less complicated if we just present the correct information from the outset — and if not, we make it clear that we are altering the quote. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 3 '18 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, let's not get overly fiddly about this and/or terrorize people for using Roll20. If there's a specific error point out the specific error. Or post your own answer or use any of the standard remediation methods we already have. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 3 '18 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes it is unclear whether they are intending to quote roll20 or instead just using roll20 as a link. Why should we assume they are quoting roll20 and not the official material? In these cases it is okay to correct the quote to official material? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Aug 4 '18 at 21:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron You might be overthinking it a bit. It just comes down to this: Do they have an accurate quote cited? If yes, everything's OK—nothing to fix, no reason to change the source they're citing. Is the quote inaccurate? Follow one of the steps above. If they're citing an accurate quote from a source that doesn't contain that quote, they have a citation error and/or they did the thing in “what not to do”; fix that. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 6 '18 at 9:52
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As it is a quote it should be preserved the way the original is - everything else is simply wrong from an ethical standpoint by saying "Some other person said this" when in fact you know they didn't. That the source is wrong is a different problem, but when you want to use this source or the author of the answer wants to use it, the quote should be preserved the way it is.

The usual thing to do in academic papers that need citations is to point out that something is different from the original or that something in the original is wrong and you realized it, but still want to quote it because it's still relevant.

You could for example add a [sic] after a typo to show that the typo was in the original text, that you have seen it and that you are aware that, according to current rules, this should be changed. For this specific example adding a [sic] and then explaining in the normal text after the quote why you added this little bit and what the difficulties with roll20 are would be perfect to show the reader what the problem is.

Another way would be to write something like [a]ttack and then mention why you changed the capitalization.

Or, to be very explicit, you could add something like:

Attack [this should be lowercase attack - see [this meta discussion](link/to/this/discussion) for more].

It might also be a good idea to add a comment, poiting out the problems and the correct capitalization that is used in books/ official sources. Maybe even poiting to a better source they can use for their claim. The OP can then decide whether to use the source you provided or the one they originally used.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't even think of using sic with my edit. I like that idea to bridge the problem. Although would I write [a]ttack [sic]? or Attack[sic]. The latter seems like it still doesn't solve the problem. To be clear, OP was told of the problem and didn't seem to make a change. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch You would either use Attack[sic!] to show that the original source contains a typo you noticed or you would use [a]ttack to show that you have changed something in the original quote. Which one you use is basically up to you and what you prefer. Personally I think that [a]ttack is probably the best, as it's the one with the fewest character changes, which also makes the real text visible and doesn't require a whole lot of explanations. An explanation or at least a comment under the text would be nice as an addition. \$\endgroup\$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 3 '18 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ What’s with the ! in your [sic]? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 3 '18 at 13:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't using code formatting for non-code content frowned on even in meta? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 3 '18 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan That's how I learned it. Wikipedia: "Man findet auch „[sic!]“ mit einem Ausrufezeichen[1] oder statt „sic“ nur ein Ausrufezeichen: „[!]“. " Translation: "You can also find '[sic!]' with an exclamation mark or just an exclamation mark: '[!]'" The english version also mentions: " It is occasionally followed by an exclamation mark, perhaps more indicative of derision. " \$\endgroup\$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 3 '18 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Placing the text in quotation marks seems like it would be easily missed or misinterpreted and using blockquote markdown for something that is not a quotation would be wrong, too. It would also be unwieldy for simple words. I am not sure what I should use to make it easy to identify that for example the two occurences of [sic!] inside the second paragraph are not part of the text, but specific things I am advocating to place into the text. It's not like this is the normal indented code style that forces you to scroll. \$\endgroup\$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 3 '18 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Just to be clear about that last comment: I learned that the correct version is to use an exclamation mark. I just looked up "derision" and I am not doing this to mock the original source or something like that. According to the style guides I have to use when writing academic papers the correct version is simply to add an exclamation mark to the [sic], which is why I have it like this in my text here. \$\endgroup\$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 3 '18 at 14:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Secespitus: Here's the meta that talks about this: Is there a functional purpose to putting things in code text here?. The tl;dr is the it messes with visually impaired readers' text readers as a direct impact. How about using bold or italics instead? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 3 '18 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Doesn't look good (bold looks like not-so-loud screaming in this case and italics is hard to identify) if you ask me, but I changed it. For the longer example I used blockquote markdown as that is apparently acceptable and for the length it's better than using bold or italics. \$\endgroup\$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Aug 3 '18 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the point of the ! mark: that’s so rarely used in English that it’s nearly non-existent. If you don’t want to be derisive (which is the natural way to try to understand something unusual like “[sic!]” in English), you should not include a ! mark when writing in English, such as on this site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 3 '18 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for putting this back up :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 3 '18 at 18:24

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