#SaystheEditor Does it Smell, or Did Destruction Happen?


I was reading a book review a few weeks back, and at the end, the reviewer had included the author’s bio.

“My kids reek havoc on my house,” it said.


Pardon me, but I didn’t realize havoc had a scent. I suppose it can, depending on what’s going on, but take a look at what Webster’s says about the definition of havoc:

Full Definition of HAVOC

:  wide and general destruction :  devastation
:  great confusion and disorder <the blackout caused havoc in the city>

Okay… so …

Depending on the destruction, confusion, or disorder, yeah, I can see something in there reeking. Remember, Webster’s defines reek as

Definition of REEK

chiefly dialect :  smoke
:  vapor, fog
:  a strong or disagreeable fume or odor

Somehow, I don’t think this is what the author meant. In fact, I’d wager money that she meant wreak, which is defined as

Full Definition of WREAK

transitive verb
a archaic :  avenge b :  to cause the infliction of (vengeance or punishment)
:  to give free play or course to (malevolent feeling)
:  bring about, cause <wreak havoc>

This is a common error, I’ve come to realize. A lot of my authors confuse reek and wreak, so many that I no longer believe it’s a typo. It’s a confusion.

The way I see it, confusions aren’t acceptable. They show a lack of command over language, and as an author, that’s a weakness you can’t be showing. This sort of thing makes you look like an idiot, an illiterate, lazy, or sloppy — none of which are traits most authors want the general (not to mention the book-buying) public to see.

But, as I’ve said in the past: it’s worth hiring a proofreader for your bios, your newsletters, your blog posts … anything you write…  It’s worth the money to make sure your words shine. Telling me your kids have reeked havoc in your house isn’t only TMI (do you want to know what someone else’s house smells like?), it’s bad craft, and bad craft signals a poor writer.

As the market grows increasingly crowded, you want to stand out for your ability to not only craft a great story, but to communicate in a way that invokes authority and trust from your writers.

(Naturally, we at West of Mars can save you this embarrassment, and we can and will do it without pressuring you to use us exclusively.)






  1. Sue Pepper

    June 26, 2014 6:10 am

    Susan I read a lot. When I find a book with mistakes I start to focus on the mistakes not the book. I will finish my OCD makes me but I will never read another book from that author again. I read to relax and enjoy! If I am distracted by mistakes it takes all of that away for me.

  2. Dana Griffin

    June 30, 2014 1:03 pm

    I thing I agree with you. It’s thinks like that I’m weak at catching in my own writing. Their are many of us out there who don’t realize that those words being misused that they’re glaring to others. 🙂 Yes, those misused of words were intentional.

    Unfortunately, my example is a weakness some of us have, not an excuse as I agree with you comments, but yeah it would be wise to have others with critical eye to read our posts before we hit submit.

  3. Susan Helene Gottfried

    June 30, 2014 1:31 pm

    But that’s the point, Dana! You need that extra set of eyes to catch those things … so why not be me?

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