We all have those words that we use regularly but don’t really know how they’re supposed to be used. One of my sets of “problem words” is very ordinary: the toward/towards conundrum.
I never know when to use toward and when to use towards. Normally I just use whatever “sounds right” in the sentence. But when an editor recently corrected me on my use of the word (I had written towards; she replaced it with toward), I figured I should do a little research and solve my problem once and for all.
I looked in one of my bibles (is it okay to have several “bibles”? Is that blasphemy?) for the answer, The Canadian Press Stylebook: A guide for writers and editors, 15th edition. Sure enough, there was the -ward/-wards issue on page 433. Here’s what the CP Stylebook says:
Americans prefer the -ward form: toward, backward, afterward; Britons prefer -wards: towards, backwards, afterwards; Canadians use both forms.
Hm. So why did my editor change my use of towards to toward? I decided I should look in another bible of mine, my beloved Canadian Oxford Dictionary. It makes a note under the word toward on page 1,646:
As forms of the preposition, toward and towards are equally common in Canada; the fact that this dictionary lists toward first should not discourage the use of towards.
So none of this really answers my question. Does my editor simply prefer toward over towards, or was there a different reasoning behind her change? Am I lacking some really basic editorial knowledge on this topic? If anyone has some insights, I would love to hear them.
In the meantime, I think I’ll make a point of using toward when I write for that particular editor… and I’ll use either toward or towards in other writing, depending on which “feels right” 😉