Bloody Well Write

August 25, 2009

-ward vs. -wards: toward or towards?

Here’s a dodgy problem.

Which one is correct: Toward or towards? Backward or backwards? Forward or forwards?

OK, so it’s not that dodgy. It’s pretty simple, really. Let’s focus on toward vs. towards and realize that the answer will be valid for all -ward words.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, as well as a host of other dictionaries and Web sites, both versions are technically correct. But one is — how shall I say it? — more technically correct than the other.

Toward, backward, forward, leftward and any other directionally influenced -ward words are used primarily in the United States. Words that add an “s” at the end are primarily British. One guy even did a Google test to see if this is true and found out that, lo and behold, it stands up to a Google search.

For me, the real test is looking it up in the AP Stylebook — the bible of journalists, ad agencies and many writers — and the answer is clear: Toward is the correct term and towards is unacceptable. End of story.

There you have it — unless you want to sound British for some bloody reason, you cheeky bugger.

Happy trails!

SAK

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