Should we adopt a standarized way to indicate that we're writing a sentence that is incorrect?

For example:

  1. Yo soy bien. (I've used it in in this answer)
  2. *Yo soy bien.
  3. ×Yo soy bien.

3 Answers 3


The first example makes clear the part of the sentence that is incorrect. The second example would make sense to linguists, but others would probably go looking for a footnote for the asterisk at the bottom of the question. The third example could be interpreted as a bullet point, or just referring to the first word and not the whole sentence. The first seems like the best option to me.

In general though, I'd say people should use whatever they're comfortable using. This seems too specific of an issue to solidify a standard and go around editing posts and policing people's formatting.

  • I also like option 1 the most
    – fedorqui
    Sep 11, 2015 at 10:54

Well, I vote for the second one, personally.

It's true it's mostly used by linguists, but it's kind of the most spread way to signal not an "incorrect" sentence, but an ungrammatical sentence.

In any case, let's wait for more opinions on the matter and see what the tendency is.


It probably depends on context.

  • When quoting something that is ungrammatical, use '(sic)'

  • In your example, the context itself I think makes it clear, as you say:

    You can say "lenguaje no verbal", "lenguaje de los ojos" but not "idioma/lengua no verbal", "idioma/lengua de los ojos".

    (Emphasis mine)

    So I don't think any additional markup is necessary in that case (and in fact, I think the additional markup reduces readability)

  • You can always use an asteriks* or other note1 and explain your meaning later.

*I intentionally spelled asterisk incorrectly so I'd have an excuse to demonstrate my meaning.
1Others may prefer numbered references!

  • You're right about the markup/readability relation, using the first option would be a burden to the eyes if used without control.
    – dusan
    Dec 8, 2011 at 20:58
  • I agree with @Flimzy; adding special markup in this case could be distracting/confusing for people not used to this kind of convention. Dec 8, 2011 at 21:02
  • @dusan: The (sic) option doesn't really apply to your example since you aren't quoting someone else (or are you?). Or did you mean the strike-through option?
    – Flimzy
    Dec 8, 2011 at 21:05
  • 1
    @Flimzy I was talking about the strike-through option, a text mostly of striked-through sentences is too hard to read.
    – dusan
    Dec 8, 2011 at 21:19
  • If you really must use notes, then use numbers with the <sup></sup> HTML tag.
    – Alenanno
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:14
  • @Alenanno: I usually do that for citations... or when I have multiple notes. Do you believe it's necessary always? What's inherently better about <sup>1</sup> as opposed to <sup>*</sup>?
    – Flimzy
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:16
  • @Flimzy * doesn't need the tag I think. But numbers aren't just meant for citation and, in my opinion, they're less ambiguous than *. I mean, if I see a number, then I'm sure there is a note; if I see an asterisk, it's not that obvious that there is a note. I hope I explained my point clearly... :P
    – Alenanno
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:19
  • @Alenanno: Clear as mud :)
    – Flimzy
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:19
  • @Flimzy What was not clear then?
    – Alenanno
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:21
  • @Alenanno: I see your point. Although I don't see much reason to take a hard-line approach. So I've updated my answer to allow for both possibilities.
    – Flimzy
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:26
  • @Flimzy I didn't mean to decide for everyone, just expressing my point of view. :)
    – Alenanno
    Dec 8, 2011 at 23:28
  • I disagree. There are times when the natural prose style can include both a correct sample and incorrect sample. But there are other times when you want to lay out samples a bit like a table or list, and then the "x" or "*" are the standard symbols that have been widely used for this job by linguists and grammarians for a long time. I don't think it's a good idea to say we should never do it that way. Dec 9, 2011 at 9:56

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