9 July 2017: Struggling between “Linguistical Correctness” and what’s right.

It’s funny how a small comment from a prospective editor set in motion such a large debate for me. When I received  a sample edit of a few pages of a manuscript of mine, there was a notation on my usage of the word “towards.”  Yes, it had never occurred to me to not put an “s” at the end.  Why?  Because I’ve always spoken it aloud ending with an s.

American accepted usage of the word “toward” is toward without an “s” on the end.  It seems “towards” with the “s” is the editorially correct British spelling of the word.

Here in lies my dilemma. I’m American and never in my life have I said the word “toward.” I’m “towards” all the way. I’ve surveyed many people over the last few weeks and most have said they use the offending “s” as well.  So …. what’s up with that?

This wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that my novels are all written in first person and are told by women who all grew up in the same small town I did in New York.  If I use the “s,” so should they.

Now that’s all well and good. I mean, I’m a rebel.  I could honestly care less what people think …. except I’m entering literary contests now and I feel using the offending (yet correct) “s” would be a mark against me.

What’s a girl to do?

I decided that in my novel series (The Falling Series) I’m leaving the “s” in and will be adding in a note that it’s a regional “s,” which I believe it is. It’s either regional to the town in NY where I grew up or regional to the town in Rhode Island where my mother grew up.  I inherited quite a few New England speech idioms from her. Since my protagonist in The Falling Series also has a mom from Rhode Island, the “s” stays.

However, going forward I’m caving in to linguistic peer pressure and dropping the “s.”  This bothers me no end, but if I want to win contests sacrifices have to be made.  You win some, you lose some …. battles that is, hopefully not contests!

I’ll end with asking to whom does one write a letter to get this “s” issued updated? Seems an out of date rule that needs a bit more flexibility with the current use  of American English.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

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