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Old 06-23-2013, 06:28 AM   #16
rhadin
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Together you present an interesting example. What if for some reason it really was one of:

1) "He stepped backwards towards the altar."
2) "He stepped backward toward the altar."
3) "He stepped backwards toward the altar."
4) "He stepped backward towards the altar."

Would a rule of consistency cut out options 3 and 4? I quite like 3.
In American English, it is always backwards. Backwards is the exception to the AmE rule of no s at the end of the -ward words. Thus in AmE #3 is the only correct option.

In British English, I believe the correct option is #1, as BrE prefers the s at the end of -ward words.
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:33 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by rhadin View Post
In contrast, in British English, the preference is towards and forwards when using these terms in the directional sense. In BrE, these words can only be adverbs.

I'm not so sure about that. To my British ear, both "he walked forwards" and "he walked forward" are fine, although they have subtly different meanings. I'm struggling to formulate a rule, though. I would always say:

"When his name was called, he walked forward to collect his prize".

because "walked forwards" sounds wrong in that context, although I can't say why it does .

On the other hand,

"While his friend walked backwards, he walked forwards"

sounds better to me (in that context) than "he walked forward".

Perhaps "forward" to indicate motion and "forwards" to indicate direction?

However, it would always be "He had a forward-looking attitude". "Forwards-looking" just sounds wrong.

Last edited by HarryT; 06-23-2013 at 07:40 AM.
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:58 AM   #18
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I agree with you that 3) reads/sounds best.

However, that doesn't negate the consistency rule. For each instance where there are two equally correct spellings (the meaning is unchanged by either), select the one that seems right to you, at least most of the time, and stick with it. In the case of "backward" vs. "backwards," for example, always use "backwards." On the other hand in the case of "toward" vs. "towards," always use "toward." Other than resolving the dilemma, I can think of at least one other rather mundane reason for maintaining consistency - to avoid nitpickers saying "oh there's a typo he didn't catch" when the "s" pops up when it wasn't there before.
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Old 06-23-2013, 11:51 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by rhadin View Post
In American English:

First of all, although toward and towards are identical words in sense of meaning, forward and forwards are not -- they can have different meanings and different purposes. [...]
Thanks heaps for your detailed response - it is much clearer than I've been able to find elsewhere, and very helpful.
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Old 06-27-2013, 01:20 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
I'm not so sure about that. To my British ear, both "he walked forwards" and "he walked forward" are fine, although they have subtly different meanings. I'm struggling to formulate a rule, though.
I'm of a similar mind, Harry. I've only had a few minutes to analyse it, but it seems to me that I generally use forwards/towards when it's an external/generic measurement or direction (he walked forwards to receive the medal / he walked off towards the west), but forward/toward when it's specific from the reference point of the subject of the action (he walked forward into the shadow / he pointed toward the tree).

Not certain that it's rigorous, and I doubt i ever learned it as a voiced rule, but it *seems* to be holding up as i think about it — for my subjective use, anyway.
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