Professional Style

Reckless vs. Wreckless

January 2013
Spot the Error

When Max is distracted or in a hurry, he becomes a wreckless driver.

Although driving while distracted may result in a wreck, the correct adjective in the “driving” sentence above is reckless. The error is understandable, though, considering that wrecks are so often the result of recklessness; however, the root words are different.

The Old English word reck means care or caution, and, of course, the suffix -less signifies without. When people act without reck (or caution), they are reckless.

Wreck, on the other hand, means broken or ruined; when associated with automobiles, it refers to a collision. Considering the meaning of the -less suffix, the term wreckless makes no sense—people who are not cautious would wreck more, not less. As a matter of fact, wrecklessness would be a good thing. However, since wreckless isn’t even a word, any discussion of its use is point-less.

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