Monday, June 11, 2012

AP Style - clarifies 'nerve-wracking'

It's always been a bit unclear from the AP stylebook whether the phrase should be "nerve-racking" or "nerve-wracking."

The "-racking" form is favored by Bryan Garner in Garner's Modern American Usage, for instance. And AP seemed to indicate it favored that with its general wording:

The noun rack applies to various types of framework; the verb rack means to arrange on a rack, to torture, trouble or torment: He was placed on the rack. She racked her brain.
Paul Brians also used this logic in his entry favoring "rack."

If you are racked with pain or you feel nerve-racked, you are feeling as if you were being stretched on that Medieval instrument of torture, the rack. ...

 However,  the wire service has now put out a clarifying note:

The noun wrack means ruin or destruction, and generally is confined to the phrase wrack and ruin and wracked with doubt (or pain). Also, nerve-wracking.
So you are now faced with what seems to be an increasingly prevalent conundrum - go with AP or follow the other sources. AP gives no reason for why it seems to favor the "wracking" construction.

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At 6/22/12, 11:14 AM, Blogger G. Richard Gainey said...

Doug Fisher, a great source of AP Style information.

At 6/28/12, 8:28 PM, Anonymous Gerber Construction said...

Now I have a headache it's Nerve-w(racking) trying to figure out which version to use.

At 10/31/12, 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since wracking makes more sense, people will use the one that makes least sense.

At 1/21/13, 4:15 PM, OpenID margey said...

maybe i'm old (ok, i'm old) but the english language is changing in front of my very eyes, and not in a good way. people misspell things, esp. on the internet, and they pass into common usage. i hate it. i guess that's how the language has always evolved however.


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