#SaystheEditor Does it Smell, or Did Destruction Happen?- Author: Susan Helene Gottfried
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 HAVOC1: wide and general destruction : devastation2: 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 REEK1chiefly dialect : smoke3: 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 WREAKtransitive verb1a archaic : avenge b : to cause the infliction of (vengeance or punishment)2: to give free play or course to (malevolent feeling)
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.)