In both my writing and the writings of others, I often come across the question of which word to use. Sometimes it’s very basic, like “your” versus “you’re,” but other times the answer isn’t as obvious.
She stretched her hands towards the ceiling.
She stretched her hands toward the ceiling.
Which one is it? Is the correct form based on singular or plural objects, or something like that? Maybe it’s just personal preference?
They both sound right . . . is there even a difference?
Yes, there is.
Initially, my first thought was simply that whichever form a writer used needed to be consistent throughout the work. Pick one and just stick with it. But it turns out there is a significant difference between the two forms.
“Toward” is the American usage, while “towards” is the British usage.
According to The Chicago Manual of Style (2016):
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. The use of afterwards and backwards as adverbs is neither rare nor incorrect. But for the sake of consistency, it is better to stay with the simpler form.
So there we have it! For American English writers, it’s best to go with “toward.” But if you simply prefer “towards,” (maybe it makes you feel more sophisticated to use the British style!) then go for it. What’s most important is that you’re consistent throughout your work, whichever form you use.