Writing Tip 142: “Extract Revenge” vs. “Exact Revenge”

"Extract Revenge" vs "Exact Revenge" owl

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure this owl is up to something. And I might be a little scared.

If you were a magical being and you were to “extract revenge” from some cauldron of calamity, maybe you’d be using your words correctly. However, for most writers plotting vengeance for their characters (or themselves?), the proper idiom is “to exact revenge.”

***insert menacing music here***

Revenge is a delicate subject. I could see how handling it properly seems like something you might do with a pipette and a beaker, but that’s just not the case.

To “exact revenge” calls back upon an old usage of the word “exact,” specifically to both demand and obtain, most commonly by force. Yikes. A bit more intimidating than pipettes, right?

One could exact payment, exact change, exact meaning, or exact justice. There are many things to exact, when you begin thinking of this word as a verb. It’s all a matter of being exact with your usages of exact. Are you ready to get this exactly right?

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