Wreak vs. Reek

Several times in the last few days, I’ve seen writers confusing these two words.  It’s starting to annoy me, so I’m going to complain about it, because I can.

The mistake that set me off this morning was someone writing that a magazine article "wreaked" of a conspiracy theory.

No it didn’t.  If anything, it reeked of a conspiracy theory. 

To wreak is to inflict or cause, and you don’t wreak of something.  A rampaging horde might wreak havoc on the enemy.  Ill-conceived economic policy might wreak havoc on the economy.  Havoc does seem to be the popular thing to wreak, and wreak has generally negative connotations overall.  Hardly anyone talks about wreaking happiness.  A shame, really.

To reek is to emit or exude something, such as an unpleasant odor.  A dumpster might reek of garbage, for example.  In fact, I daresay most do.

Come on people, get it right—don’t make me come over there!

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