Word Count

Writers Talk About Writing

"Toward" or "Towards"?

Welcome to the latest in our series of quick tips on usage and style shared by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl. In this tip, Mignon advises on the usage of toward vs. towards.

Toward and towards are both correct and interchangeable: you can use either one because they mean the same thing.

Many sources say the s-form is more common in Britain than in the United States. The safest choice is to consider your audience:

  • If your audience is primarily American, use toward.
  • If your audience is primarily British, use towards.

For a deeper analysis of the usage patterns of toward vs. towards, see Jonathon Owen's column, "Towards a Fuller Understanding of Usage," which argues that "towards is seemingly rare in American English because copy editors make it rare."

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Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl. She is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and the creator of the iOS game Grammar Pop. She is also the Donald W. Reynolds Chair of Media Entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism and Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Click here to read more articles by Mignon Fogarty.

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Comments from our users:

Thursday November 13th 2014, 4:44 AM
Comment by: Lone R. (Germany)
Thanks for bringing Jonathon Owen's column to my attention.
In light of his excellent exposition, your advice on the topic seems a bit superficial, though.
Thursday November 13th 2014, 11:11 AM
Comment by: Constance M. (Waverly, IA)
Perhaps Lone R. missed the "quick and dirty" phrase?
Friday November 14th 2014, 10:09 AM
Comment by: Dwight H. (Greenwich, CT)
At a recently attended writer's conference my workshop instructor (a highly respected author and teacher) argued to drop "toward(s)" altogether in favor of the simple "to." But I've had a hard time accepting this advice: I find an stylistic, if subtle, difference between saying, "She looked toward the mountains," and "She looked to the mountains."
Friday November 14th 2014, 1:43 PM
Comment by: Kristine F.Top 10 Commenter
Dwight, if you substitute walked for looked, the difference is beyond stylistic or subtle- the whole meaning changes. I can travel TOWARD the North Star every night for an hour and then come home, but traveling TO the North Star ... well, you see the problem ...

The Happy Quibbler
Friday November 14th 2014, 5:07 PM
Comment by: Dwight H. (Greenwich, CT)
Kristine, outstanding example!
Saturday November 15th 2014, 11:02 PM
The vocabulary is rich, plentiful. We need to use it to the fullness of the extent of it.
Sunday November 16th 2014, 11:23 AM
Comment by: Laurence S.
I have always had a problem deciding whether to use an "s" at the end. Whew! Done less thing to worry about.

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