If you want to wreak havoc, that's your prerogative. If you want to use the expression 'wreak havoc', don't come across like a moron by writing 'wreck havoc' instead.
Picture by Roberto Serra/Getty Images
I can almost understand how this mistake gets made. The word 'wreak' (which the Macquarie Dictionary usefully defines as "to inflict or execute") is uncommon. Someone who wasn't paying attention might easily assume the required word was 'wreck', a more frequently-encountered verb. But they would be wrong.
'Wreck havoc' makes no sense. Taken literally, it would mean destroying havoc, which would imply an orderly state, which is not what anyone usually means when they deploy this phrase. But that does not stop it being deployed, even in allegedly 'professional' contexts. Consider this howler from the official AFL site earlier this year:
COLD, blustery conditions are expected to wreck havoc at the MCG for Saturday's Grand Final.
(Pedant note: the headline on the linked story uses 'wreak', correctly. That doesn't help. Accuracy requires consistency.)
There's no clever trick I can offer to memorise this, beyond the obvious stupidity of writing 'wreck havoc'. Don't go there. Havoc (and judgement) will surely ensure.
Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.