#WhyWriteWrong?

Hi, Folks! Marcia here, hailing you from central Florida where temps are starting to soar, and spring is tipping over into summer even as I type. So much for getting all my outdoor projects done before I can no longer bear to leave my air-conditioned house for anything more than a quick trip to the mailbox and back!

But heat or no heat, it’s time for another #WhyWriteWrong post, wherein I share some common errors I see popping up in books way more often than they should. These short posts are designed to help you avoid having these errors crop up in your own books. 

As a reader, these kinds of mistakes really jump out at me, pulling me out of the story long enough to think (or occasionally yell) “Noooo! That’s just wrong!”

As I writer, I know we always want to avoid anything that distracts our readers from the story we’ve written. Therefore, I sincerely hope this series will be useful for some of you and a bit of fun, at the same time.

I recently read a very good book by an author much more renowned than I’ll ever manage to be, and it was an entertaining story. I enjoyed it thoroughly—except for the fact that the author persisted in “wrecking havoc” all over the place. Not once, but several times.

Now I do not think any less of this author, because he’s brilliant and writes beautiful books–and also because we writers are only human. We make mistakes. But for those of you who would like to avoid this particular one, let me just say one does not “wreck” havoc. One “wreaks” havoc. Not spelled the same, not pronounced the same. (The first one, of course, is pronounced, “reck,” and the second “reek.”)

I’m sure most of you have a pretty good idea of what the word “wreck” means, but a few of you might be confused about that other one.  Here’s a short version of what Merriam-Webster has to say about each of these words. Similar, yes, but not quite the same and definitely not used in the same expressions.

 

WRECK
Noun:  The broken remains of something wrecked or otherwise ruined: “This car is a total wreck.”
Or perhaps, “The stress of her final exams made her a wreck.”

 

 

Verb:  To cause the wreck of or to involve in a wreck.
“The tornado wrecked every building on the street.”

 

 

 

WREAK
 Verb:  To bring about, cause, or inflict a large amount of damage or harm.
“Torrential rainstorms wreaked havoc yesterday.”

 

 

Or, perhaps,  “Darth would soon have a chance to wreak revenge upon the enemy”

 

 

Though I didn’t expect the author I mentioned above to misuse this expression, I do see it misused  fairly often. Therefore, I figured it would be a good one to share here, as a reminder that the act of creating mayhem and tearing things apart willy-nilly is called “wreaking havoc.” Of course, sometimes wreaking havoc can leave behind a wreck. 😀 However, while in the same linguistic ballpark, “wreak” and “wreck” are not interchangeable. Honest.

Would I Lie To You?

 


And there you have today’s #WhyWriteWrong post.  We all have words and expressions we misuse, but I hope this at least clarifies what wreaking havoc is all about. Yes? No?  Maybe? What are your thoughts on misunderstood phrases? Inquiring minds wanna know.

 

Thanks for stopping by SE today! Hope you’ll check back often to see what the rest of the gang will be talking about. And I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with something else up my sleeve. In the meantime, please continue to stay safe and stay well. Now I’m heading forth to write with a happy heart, and hope you’ll soon be doing the same!



DISCLAIMER
I am not an English teacher, grammarian, or expert on all matters of this nature. I don’t even play one on TV! But I promise I have consulted with those in the know before posting anything in this series.

(All images above were created by me or obtained from Pixabay.) 

69 thoughts on “#WhyWriteWrong?

  1. Great post, Marcia! And good safety tip. I will admit I was using a word wrong (only one letter off the word I thought I was using), and two gracious beta readers pointed it out. Whew! There was a word in a work document (software specification) that the writer used wrong every time–“parody” vs “parity”. Not even close in meaning even if they are almost homophones, and every time I saw it I had to resist the urge to correct it. Or quote SNL. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha. I love the parody/parity thing. That’s a good one for my list. And thank goodness for beta readers and editors, eh? They can save us from a lot of embarrassing mistakes, myself included. Glad you enjoyed this one, Julie. I have a lot of fun with this series, and hopefully help prevent a few folks from making an error along the way. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a minute to comment! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know how you feel. It was such a good book, I tried to ignore it, but it became obvious that this was one phrase the author didn’t realize he was using incorrectly. (Rather than a typo, say). However, it did pull me out of the story every, single time. And I have heard people actually use it this way in speech–on TV, no less. I figured it would be a good one to share here so that it might help clear up the confusion. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Liz. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yoikes! I learned this one, but can’t say I haven’t screwed it up in the past, Marcia. There are a bunch like this. I had a reader correct me when I wrote “upmost” instead of “utmost.” Utmost?? Lol. Great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Diana! 🙂 We are all human, and no matter how great our vocabulary is, or our understanding of words in general, there are bound to be some expressions we’ve misheard over the years and used incorrectly here and there. (And that includes me, though I’m always trying to learn.)

      I am truly not an expert, but there are some things that jump out at me, and “wrecking” havoc is one of them. 😀 If I notice it, then others will, too, and it’s not what we want our readers thinking about when they are otherwise enjoying our books. Hoping this series will help with at least a bit of that. Thanks for stopping by, Diana, and taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: #WhyWriteWrong? | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

    • Thanks so much, Michelle! I very much enjoy doing these little posts and hope some folks will find them helpful. Now and then we find out that though we think we know what a word means, we’re mistaken, and none of us wants to publish a book with a mistake in it, I’m sure. Hence sharing things I’ve spotted here and there. Very nice of you to stop by today, and please stay well, yourself! Somehow, we WILL get through this mess, and life will return to something at least akin to normal again. Our job is just to hang in there until it does! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful post Marcia and at times just spell checking is not effective enough in finding these quirks of fate! There are some words we are overly attached to in everyday speech that creep into our writing and they are clearly evident in my own writing when I read the first draft. The word goes down quite dramatically the second time around. Will share on Monday on the blog…hugsx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Sally, and an extra thanks for sharing on your blog Monday. I’ll keep an eye out for it. 🙂 I love doing this little series, meant to show people that there are a LOT of things spellcheck will not flag, misused words, for one. Oftentimes it’s because the writer doesn’t understand what the word or phrase actually means, and I’m hoping to clear up some of the more common mistakes, like “wrecking havoc.” I have a whole list of misunderstood and misused words to go, yet. 😀 So glad you enjoyed this one. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • And also understanding the correct definition of the words being used. It won’t matter how many times you re-read your work if you don’t realize you’ve misused a word because you didn’t understand the actual definition. Of course, having a good editor on hand would help, or even a good proof reader, or beta readers who would pick up on your error. I’m in favor of all those things, for sure. 🙂 And you are so right. Technology will not know you’ve used the wrong word entirely, so I’m hoping to help with that when I spot these common errors. 🙂

        Like

    • Ha! I love it, Pam! And you are so right about spelling, though I think with “wrecked havoc” they are more likely to be misusing the phrase. I can see where it could be a spelling issue, but lots of people just aren’t familiar with the phrase at all, or don’t know the difference between “wreak” and “wreck.” Either way, it’s one of those errors that jumps up and hits me over the head. 😀 Hope this series of posts will save a few folks from making these kinds of mistakes. That’s the plan, anyway. 😀 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Like

  5. Loved your entertaining lesson Marsh. I know the odd typo is practically a give me in many books, but the same word spelled wrong, besides the repitition should have been caught by an editor. Hmm, was there an editor? Great post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it. In this case, Debby, nothing was spelled wrong or typed wrong. It was simply used incorrectly, which is what this series is mostly about: misused words and phrases.

      Typos are a threat to all of us, no matter how perfect our grammar or how big our vocabulary. We all make them, and need to proofread carefully, plus use all the professional help we can budget. (Editors and proofers, etc). And even then, a mistyped word two could slip by. But my goal with this series is to point out cases where words are being misused or misunderstood, in the hopes writers can avoid these types of errors all the way around. But yes, an editor should have caught “wrecked havoc” because even though it was obviously typed on purpose, it’s just wrong.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I really enjoy doing this little series, and hopefully, it will be helpful to some folks along the way. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly, Deb. For sure, Word will NOT pick up on misused words or incorrect phrases, as long as they have no spelling errors. One more reason for getting as many eyes on our books as possible before we publish, and most especially, a good editor. How any editor could have missed “wrecked havoc,” I’m not sure. Once, maybe. Three times? Makes ya wonder. Thanks again for commenting and sharing. 🙂 ❤

        Like

    • You had a built-in advantage! 😀 Sometimes it works the other way, too, where the person who uses the phrase all the time uses it wrong. Eeep. But I’m glad it’s not one that confuses you. 😀 Thanks so much for stopping by Yvette! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sherrie! Glad you enjoyed it, and funny you should mention that one. It’s coming up next, because it might be the most common misused phrase out there. Certainly in the top ten. Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My very wonderful editor caught a ‘write wrong’ in my own WIP (which I had been through at least 7 times myself). I was SO embarrassed when she caught it, but in the interests of helping others, I’ll share it here (and run away quickly while everyone laughs).
    “We suffered enough under his yolk…” of course meant to be YOKE.
    Or maybe they were just dripping with runny egg?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, you’re a good sport, Jessica! And believe it or not, I’ve SEEN that in more than one book over the years. It’s a good one to remember, and I’m taking note so maybe between us, we can help save someone else an embarrassing moment. (Or, perhaps they might ACTUALLY mean the runny egg thing, in which case, we’ll salute them. 😀 ) Thanks for stopping by, Jessica! Love that you shared that with us. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I see things like this a lot. One that makes me cringe is swapping insure for ensure. I do technical editing for a few firms and they constantly misuse these words. To your point, spell check does not pick this mistake. This is why I cannot stress the importance of an editor and beta readers. (Not that the technical aspect uses beta readers)

    There are words that grate on my nerves, but that is another post altogether. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Michele! Oooh, I’m jotting down ensure/insure. That’s one I get confused on, too, though I almost always look it up to be certain I haven’t goofed. I’m developing quite a list of words and phrases to share over time in these posts. And I am 100% behind having good editors, proofreaders, betas, and whatever else we can budget to be sure our work is the best it can be. But I also like to understand my word choices and be sure I’m using them correctly. My intent is always to send my editor (I think you might know her. 😀 ) the cleanest draft I can. Why make her job harder or longer than it needs to be if I can help it? Plus, I just genuinely like to understand words and phrases and use them correctly. I make mistakes like everyone else, but I work hard to learn from them, too. Going off now to make a note of insure/ensure! 😀 Thanks for stopping by today! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure, Jan. I hope it helps some who’ve been confused, or even actually misusing it. Yes on the English language! Crazy words, crazier rules. 😀 But very important for us writers. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by today! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good blog, Marcia:) It does pull you out of the story when you want to correct it. I’m not always able to catch that in my writing and it’s the simplest of words I switch sometimes, thank goodness for great editors!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen to that. These posts are in no way intended to replace editors, proofreaders, or beta readers, which we should all be using if possible. For sure, we do not see what we write. We see what we MEANT to write. But many times, the issue isn’t that we overlooked an incorrect word or phrase. It’s that we are mistaken in what we think that word or phrase means. That’s my main focus with this series: helping writers realize that they may be using certain words incorrectly. Again, the cleaner the draft we send to the editor, the better. At least, that’s my theory, and what I keep aiming for. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by today, Denise. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that we don’t see many of our own errors, especially typos, and editors/proofreaders/beta readers, etc, are essential. But some errors (like this one) are made because the writer genuinely doesn’t understand the correct meaning of a word or phrase. If those can be avoided going in, it sure makes it easier for our editors, who can then focus on things such as structure or grammar, which can be a bit more complicated than the meaning of a word or phrase, I think. At any rate, it never hurts to better understand words, since they’re vital to what we do, and that’s what I’d like to help folks with, when I can. The cleaner the draft, the easier on the editor, and sometimes the less expensive it is to tidy up. Thanks for stopping by today, Robbie. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Love the way you can put things like this across in a way that’s not only clear but also funny enough to make me remember them. Whenever I come across an error like this one it drags me out of the scene and so I’m only too aware how important it is to try and get these things right. Looking forward to the next one! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Trish. You just let me know I did my job today! 😀 Yes, I want to share information that’s helpful to writers, but I want to make it a whole lot more fun than many of my English teachers did, back in the day. 😉 And I agree that making things amusing also makes them easier to remember. At least, that’s the theory, and what I aim for. Glad you enjoyed this one, and my plan is for my second post of each month to be another installment, so there will be more. I’ve got a whole list of them. (Be afraid. Be very afraid. 😀 )

      Thanks for stopping by. and here’s hoping no havoc is wreaked upon you or yours today! 🙂

      Like

  10. “Wreaking” havoc is one is one I always pause to think about to ensure I have it correct before I move ahead. It’s interesting how, as writers, incorrect usage will jump out at us while reading–another reason it’s always good to have an editor. Although, in this case, the use slipped by the editor, too.

    These posts are fun and informative, Marcia!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Mae. I’m glad you enjoy them. And wreak/wreck is one that happens so often I couldn’t wait to tackle it. It’s tricky, for sure, but hopefully this will help folks remember. And I agree on the editor thing. If writers can afford one–or at least a proofreader–they really should use one. It makes a big difference, though editors are just as human as writers and can also miss things. Still, the chances of avoiding mistakes like this are far better with than without, in my opinion. (Nobody asked, but I’m volunteering. 😀 ) Thanks for stopping by, Mae! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Just want to let you folks know I have a post on Story Empire today, in case you want to check it out. It’s in my Why Write Wrong series, and I’d love to have you stop by, if you have a chance. And if you do, and you enjoy it, it’d be super if you’d pass it along. Thanks! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m prone to making the same mistakes over and over in my writing, so I’m the last person to fault that author. I am surprised the editor didn’t catch it, though. Especially if it happened more than once. Just goes to show these simple things can happen to anyone. I have to admit, I find it difficult to turn off my inner editor when I read, but I think I wouldn’t let this problem dampen my reading experience (provided the story was good, of course).

    Liked by 3 people

    • For me, it depends on how often the mistake is made, and how many other words are being misused. If the book overall is well-written and engaging, I’m not going to put it down over one mistake, either. But it’s so much better when there’s nothing like that popping up to interrupt the flow of the story. And if it happens over and over, It’s like having the doorbell or telephone ring every few pages. It completely interrupts my visit with the book’s characters, which is something we don’t want to happen to our readers.

      Hopefully these Why Write Wrong posts will help folks catch some of these issues before they happen. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts today, Staci! 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

    • True, though you ain’t lived until you’ve smelled havoc having been wreaked (by a windstorm) upon an abattoir! 😯 Talk about REEKING!

      And yep. Word is no help on most misused words. There’s more to the issue than just getting the spelling right, so I hope these tips with ones I spot being used incorrectly a lot will help folks avoid those kinds of mistakes. I believe there are likely some programs out there that will catch a few errors of this type, but I don’t think any of them work as well as simply understanding how to use these tricky words correctly to begin with.

      Thanks for stopping by this morning, Craig! 🙂 Here’s wishing you a day where NOTHING reeks. Or wreaks. Or wrecks. 😀

      Liked by 3 people

  13. How about the wreck wreaked havoc on his life? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) I admit to having to look up the spelling/meaning of some of these simple words such as wreak. As Jaye and Anita said, spell check will not pick up on this type of error. Good post today, Marcia.

    Liked by 3 people

    • 😀 😀 😀 That works, Joan. A bit unusual, perhaps, but perfectly correct. 😀 And never, EVER be reluctant to admit looking up words for either meaning or spelling purposes. Honestly, I had to HIDE my actual dictionary because every, single time I looked up a definition, I’d spend a half hour or so READING the entire page, and the next, and the next. I have had a love affair going with words all my life, and dictionaries pull me in like a good novel does. 😯 I still check definitions and spellings, of course, but today, I do it via Google. ONE word on the page = no lost time. 😉

      We all have words that for some odd reason give us trouble with spelling, I think. One of my issues is words that end in “ence” and “ance.” I can never remember which is which, probably because I pronounce them exactly the same way, so have to look them up all the time. At least Word does underline most of those for me, though.

      Glad you enjoyed today’s Why Write Wrong post! Now off you go, with no more wrecks wreaking havoc, I hope! 😀

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Thanks, Marcia. It bugs me too! The more you write, the more you learn – despite occasional mistakes – and now I have edited a few books, I am more aware than ever of my and others’ errors…Take rending and rendering…A most erudite gentleman of my acquaintance, recently made this slip-up in his latest book. I look up to said gent as he is not only a very nice person, but he is exceptionally clever and gifted in many areas. I admit to liking him even more now that i know he too can make a simple mistake. He is human, after all. As writer Margaret Atwood said (or words to that effect) “If I waited to be perfect, I would never write a thing.” How true! Take care. x.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Joy! I agree with your thoughts on this, totally. When you write and go through the revision/editing process, you are more aware of mistakes in books you are reading than ever. Totally misused words are more jarring to me than many grammar errors, because they can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. Rend/render is a great example, and in fact, is already on my Why Write Wrong list. 😀 You can rest assured I’ll be discussing that one. (Talk about changing the meaning!) 😀 But we ALL make mistakes like these now and then, and in no way do I mean to belittle anyone for doing so. I just want to offer a quick and easy way to help folks see the difference in words that are frequently misused, so they can avoid doing so in the future. I hope this series will be a fun way to do that. Thanks so much for stopping by today and taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Another great Why Write Wrong posts. I love these. Wrong words and phrases annoy the heck out of me. Yes, we’re all human, and I’ve slipped up plenty of times, so the odd one doesn’t bother me too much, but a lot of them ends up making me roll my eyes and pulls me right out of the story. Once, I had to stop reading a book that had charcters repeatedly saying ‘yea’ instead of ‘yeah’ … and they said it a LOT, lol. I managed about a hundred pages and then my brain curled up and died.

    Thanks, Marcia 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Harmony. I really enjoy doing this series, so I’m glad you like it. There will no doubt be more ahead. 😀 The “odd one” doesn’t bother me enough to stop reading an otherwise good book or following an enjoyable writer, but it still pulls me out of the story, and that’s never what we writers want to see happen. Too many of them in the same book, and I will often give up on it, too. And I’ve noticed the tendency in blog posts for folks to use “yea” and “yah” for “yeah,” myself. Don’t think I’ve seen it in a book yet, but my brain does not pronounce them the same way, so it does make me stumble, too. Thanks for reminding me of that one. Yea/yeah might make a good future subject! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, Jaye. You simply can’t depend on Word to catch misuse. If you’ve spelled a word correctly, but used it incorrectly, Word is almost sure to miss it. And while it might get caught in editing, it also might slip by there, as well. I’m hoping this little series will help writers take note of words that are are bugaboos for many of us, and thus enable them to avoid one more problem. And the phrase “wreck havoc” wreaks havoc with my brain cells. 😀 Thanks for stopping by today!

      Liked by 3 people

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.