Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ward or wards

I’m looking for opinions on this stylistic choice.

I’ve always written ‘towards’, ‘forwards’, ‘upwards’ etc. with the ‘s’. In critiques on The Ashes of Home, there were a few spots where critiquers picked up on this and said it was incorrect.

I’ve never given this a thought before, and certainly never had anyone question it, so I did some research. Grammar sites seem pretty consistent in saying that both forms are correct, but there is a preference for dropping the ‘s’ in America and keeping it in Britain and Australia.

Most of my sales tend to be American so I decided - with some reservations - to go with the flow and dropped all the ‘s’s. Now I’m re-reading, it sounds plain wrong to me. I believe I’m going to revert back to what sounds natural to me, but I thought I’d also sound out some opinions on your preferences as readers.

(1) Do you think it odd when you see ‘towards’, ‘forwards’ etc. rather than ‘toward’ or ‘forward’?

(2) Do you expect the author to be consistent - all one form, or all the other - or does it depend on what sounds best in context?

The reason for (2) is that some contexts seem to beg one form rather than the other. e.g. I would say “He ran forwards” but “He looked out of the forward viewport”.


  1. Hi Ian - the thought of going English American is too much, yet I suspect that's the way it'll be ... we're probably ok now ... but like you I'd rather keep the English version. Consistency definitely ...

    Hope that helps or muddies the waters?! Cheers Hilary

  2. I was born in the USA and have lived all my life here. For what it's worth: Unless you are going through a publisher, you have no editor's opinions to adhere to other than your own, right?

    I think in today's very published world--very globally published world with fewer books coming out of publishing houses that adhere to specific grammar styles, grammar is becoming more homogenized. If not more homogenized, then perhaps, more accepted when it's written in different styles. That opinion is, no doubt, highly excepted by the purists. lol

    I think you should go with what sounds right to you. Technically, they are both correct. Just be consistent with what you choose.(I'd actually already looked up the toward/towards thing for my own work). No, I don't find it odd at all. Neither with nor without the "s" at the end of the word trips up my reading.

  3. If you've always added the s, stay consistent. It's correct either way and most readers won't know the difference anyway.

  4. Hilary, I've adapted spelling in general to the American version (center v. centre, etc.) but this one seems less clear-cut.

    Teresa, self-published means I can set my own editorial standards, but I don't want to fall afoul of reader expectations either.

  5. Alex, I feel that in this case I was led astray by a small handful of critique comments. I should have questioned it a bit more carefully at the time.

  6. Yep, Ian, we all/most of us aim for that big, fat, juicy American market which necessitates US spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. I think without the 's' is the way to go, I've gotten used to it, but admit I always pause when i'm writing and think about it...:-)

  7. Just because Americans are reading your book doesn't mean you have to write like an American. I read a lot of books written by British and Australian authors, and I fully expect the word usage in those books to be somewhat different than what I use in my writing. There's no need for you to conform to American styles. I say, "Vive les differences!"

  8. Being Aussie, I too have come across this. I decided to write everything I want to publish (except my blog) in American English because English speakers across the world recognise/recognize it the best and don't have a problem with it, but American readers only see 'typos' when it's written in British/Australian English. So my forwards is forward etc.

    1. I should say, "many" American readers see British English words as typos. Not all, of course.

  9. Denise and Lynda, interesting that the Aussies are concerned about how Americans might view things, while most responses from Americans (Susan, and others earlier) suggest it's not that much of a problem. Thanks for your views, everyone!

  10. I've always gone with the American preference. The other sounds wrong to me, period. I've read both, but I admit, at this point in time, it's one of my pet peeves in grammar/editing. I'm fine if the author is from overseas, but if they're American, I count it as ignorance. *shrugs* I don't mean to be a grammar Nazi, but those are my real feelings on the matter.

  11. Interesting question. I'm a Brit (Not English, Welsh! :) ) but I'm published with a U.S. publisher. My editor prefers that I use the U.S. version -'toward' 'forward', etc.but is quite happy for me to use British spelling, so I think my writing is 'hybridised'! :) I have to say I've always felt the 's' was a bit superfluous, but that's probably because I've got so used to not using it. As others have said, I think provided you're consistent you should do what feels right for you when both forms are widely used.


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