Monday, September 20, 2010

Word Nerd: Afterward

What people say: afterwards

Correct expression: afterward

Meaning: at a later time; subsequently


  • I mopped the floor and had to be careful afterward to watch my step.
  • If you have to tell Mary the bad news, try to say something positive afterward.

From the comments: Anonymous commented that afterwards is listed in some dictionaries, which led me to dig deeper. The Chicago Manual of Style points out that many directional words (toward, afterward, forward, upward, and so on) end in an 's' in British English. In American English, the conventional spelling is without an 's' at the end. Thank you, Anonymous!


  1. I managed to find 'afterwards' in some dictionaries. Is this a case of AmE and BrE?

  2. You learn something new every day. You're exactly right. Here is how the Chicago Manual of Style explains it:

    The preferred form is without the ‑s in American English, with it in British English. The same is true for other directional words, such as upward, downward, forward, and backward, as well as afterward.

  3. It is the same with toward vs. towards, which was the subject of a previous 'word nerd' entry.

  4. As a Kiwi, I normally follow the British model, but there is something about adding an S to directional suffixes that sounds clumsy and unnecessary, even to my colonial ear. (As grating as when I hear Americans say, "Irregardless"!)

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