Q From Marlayna Slaughterbeck: My question relates to words taking the suffix -ward to indicate direction. My assumption has been that adding an s is incorrect (upwards as opposed to upward, towards rather than toward), yet I see it being done often, even in reputable publications such as The Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker. My hope is that you will clear this up and that I’ll finally be able to put aside this distraction and move forward (or even forwards)!
A First off, the sense is exactly the same whether there’s an s on the end or not. And both forms are equally valid, though — as you have found — usage varies quite a bit.
In American English, the forms without the final s are much more common, at least in edited writing, and this is perhaps why you have gained the impression that those with the s on the end are incorrect.
British English is different. Over here, we tend to use the forms without the s as adjectives (“she was a backward child”), and those with the s as adverbs (“his car shot forwards”), though we’re not always consistent in this.
My guess is that, for a change, American English is being influenced by British writers.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
By hook or by crook; Polish off; Loggerhead; Lame duck; But and ben; Logomaniac; Type louse; Corium; Lie Doggo; Fewmet; Dingbat; Kibosh; Caucus; Oryzivorous; Kick the bucket; Satisficer; Beside oneself; Words of the Year 2015; Peradventure; Sconce; Orchidelirium; How’s your father; Goon; Emoji; Thank your mother for the rabbits; Nonplussed; Bob’s-a-dying; Methinks; Bill of goods.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!