Grammar Police: Towards vs Toward

I’m re-editing a paper for my doctoral program based on some recent feedback, and I came across an interesting edit I disagreed with.

(Well, it’s interesting if you find anything dealing with grammar interesting. Which I think comes from my days in journalism. Which probably means it’s not really interesting.)

I used “towards” in the paper and received the note, “Toward never has an ‘s’ at the end.”

I beg to differ. You see, I remembered my college roommate and editor of the yearbook researching this exact topic for a yearbook titled “Accelerating towards (toward?) something.” He determined that both are equally acceptable. One may have a preference, but it’s just that: a preference.

I trusted his research, but once I had a smart person telling me I was wrong, I realized that my roomie wasn’t always known for his grammatical preciseness (Sorry, Ryan). So it was time to do some research.

Turns out, I’m right. But I’m going to change anyway. Here’s why.

One of my favorite grammarians, Grammar Girl, says this:

“Toward” and “towards” are both correct and interchangeable: you can use either one because they mean the same thing. Many sources say the “s” is more common in Britain than in the United States, so you should take into account what the convention is in your country, and use “towards” in Britain and “toward” in the U.S.

Grammarist backs this up. They write that both are acceptable and share meanings (yes!), but that towards is more common in British writing while  toward has gained popularity in American writing (again!). They include these nice charts, courtesy of Google Ngram, that show towards and toward usage in over the past 200 years or so.

Usage in British books


Usage in American books

Interesting, isn’t it? So there you have it. I still say they’re interchangeable  BUT, I also recognize that I’m an American writing papers in America for primarily American readers. So I’ll use toward.

It’s also a good reminder that language is always in flux. There are rules, but beyond the style guide for your specific field, there are usually gray areas.

(Disclaimer – this is a blog post, not a paper. As soon as you write about grammar, someone shows up to critique the language you used to write the post. I’m sure I made mistakes throughout this. As long as I got close, I’m happy.)

Reconsidering textbooks in a digital world – or – Why a $100 ebook is crazy

I’m jumping back into the world of education as I start studies for a PhD in Higher Ed in about a week, and as I start that journey, I’m reminded of some of the joys of life as a student.

Like that some books cost $150.

Some people are outraged by this. I’m hit with a little sticker shock, but overall, I get the reasons. Publishers frequently attribute the high cost to the resale market. When you publish a textbook, it sells well the first semester then quickly drops off as students sell the book back, and the bookstore sells the used books for less than new.

But here’s what I don’t get (and one of the biggest opportunities in the publishing market). One book I purchased was $122 new and $100 for the Kindle version.

That’s crazy. That’s someone taking an old model and laying it over a new paradigm. Digital scales differently. There’s no incremental cost. And, most importantly for textbooks, it’s really, really hard to have a secondary resale market.

When you sell an ebook, you’re selling something that cannot be resold. The customer purchased the right to view the information. That should change the cost structure, but most publishers are comparing ebooks to the traditional book market and pricing them just a little below physical book pricing,

There is an opportunity here. The ebook market is renewable. Fresh income comes in every semester without demanding a new edition every few years to kill the resale market. Price a $122 textbook at $20 or $30, well below what the bookstores can sell a used hard copy for. You’ll sell more every semester at pure profit. Amazon will take a cut of the money, but even then it’s a better deal.

Or cut Amazon out of the picture and make 100% profit. Textbooks get sold to the professor, not the students. The professor makes the choice and requires (compels?) the students to purchase it. Make it clear an ebook version is for sale on your own website, and the professor can direct the students there. You have a captive audience, and for $100 savings, students will gladly click over to “”. In the end, this benefits the students (more affordable), the teacher (happier students), and the authors (opportunities for a better royalty structure). Everyone wins – except those people buying back used books and selling them for the markup.