No worries: Nerve-racking vs. nerve-wracking

No doubt this pair of phrases at one time or another has given you a headache: Is it nerve-racking or nerve-wracking?

Rack, as a noun, refers to framework; to wit, He placed his rifle on the gun rack. As a verb, rack means to torture or torment; for example, She racked her brain trying to come up with a solution.

Wrack, as a noun, means ruin or destruction. Generally, the only times to use wrack are in the phrases wrack and ruinwracked with doubt, and wracked with pain.

So unless you mean that a situation was so anxiety-ridden that it literally destroyed a person’s brain, use nerve-racking.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.