Using this term incorrectly damages one's credibility

Mr. Rewrite wishes a speedy recovery to those harmed by the hurricane. He lived in the Big Apple when a storm took a similar track about 20 years ago. It's serious stuff.

As officials sort out what happened and the media report on it, Mr. Rewrite hopes they'll keep in mind that a storm causes damage, not damages.

This mistake is so widespread, especially among broadcast reporters, that Mr. Rewrite figures it will be impossible to turn it around. He suspects that the problem began with bureaucrats spouting bureaucratese and continued through journalists who didn't know better -- in part because they've come up hearing other journalists misuse the term. This Wall Street Journal headline is an example...

Here's the deal, supported by the AP Stylebook and every other reference book Mr. Rewrite owns:

-- Damages are compensation set by a court. A person sues seeking damages for some alleged harm -- pain and suffering, for example. If he or she wins, a judge sets the damages to be paid.

-- Damage means, well, damage, destruction, stuff being broken, etc. Damage results, for example, when Rewrite Jr. takes a hammer to the stucco of Mr. Rewrite's house.

Hmm. Mr. Rewrite wonders whether he can seek damages from Rewrite Jr.

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