• He walked toward (or towards?) the lake.
• Let’s move forward (or forwards?) with our plan.
• She stepped backward (or backwards?) and stumbled off the porch.
Many sources say either works, but most suggest no s with toward, forward or backward in American English. Similar words that do not need an s are upward, onward, downward and afterward.
Reminder: Don’t confuse forward, a direction of movement, with foreword, a short introductory statement for a book or other published work. And remember that afterward means at a later time or subsequently, and afterword is a comment from the author at the end of a book.
The Queen’s English
If you are from Great Britain or have clients in the U.K., you likely know that towards is the preferred usage there:
The Queen’s limousine is heading towards Buckingham Palace.
The Scotland Yard investigator said the case was moving towards a conclusion.
What about anyway or anyways?
Again, common usage in the United States does not include the s:
If it rains, we’ll take a walk anyway.
She wasn’t home, but we left the package anyway.
How about outdoor or outdoors?
In this case, there is a difference. Outdoor is an adjective, and outdoors is a noun:
She enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting.
Let’s look for a restaurant that offers outdoor dining.
He prefers a job that allows him to work outdoors.
It should be warm enough outdoors this evening for patio dining.
Adding an s will not impair someone’s understanding of toward, backward, forward or anyway, but not including the s in these cases reflects the standard U.S. English convention. Nor should similar words upward, onward and downward end with an s.
I invite Ruthless Editor’s Killer Grammar Tips subscribers from across the pond, or those originally from countries with usage that conflicts with the U.S. no-s convention, to share differences in other common, everyday words.
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