I’m pretty much a stickler for grammar rules. My newspaper background included drilling on AP Style rules, and because none of the papers I worked for had the budget to buy its reporters copies of this guide, I bought my own. Thumbed through it until the pages were dog-eared, wrinkled, loved.
Now I’m a Chicago Style girl–thanks to fully entering the publishing world–although I’m still learning.
Both AP and Chicago, being American institutions, prefer “toward” to the more British “towards.” So my style as a writer and editor and publisher is to always prefer “toward.”
That being said, as an editor of other people’s work, I do understand and appreciate how someone’s use of voice or characterization can come through in that character’s grammatical choices. This leads to slippery thinking occasionally, best worked out between the author and me in a real-time, in-person conversation, so we preserve the voice without totally wrecking convention and risking throwing an astute reader/editor type out of the story entirely because of our choice.
My first author Stevan Allred and I battled over a number of these tiny, seemingly insignificant choices, and I had such fun doing it. (I think he did too…)
One of them was “toward” vs. “towards.” He was adamant that one or two of his characters would use “towards.” I ultimately won that round, because I counted every instance of “toward,” and every instance of “towards,” and reported the results. We took out two “towards” in a point of view character who was quite educated and probably would know to use “toward.” At that point, I think there were eleven or maybe fifteen “toward” uses, and three “towards” remaining. That unbalance, I felt, would make a reader feel like we hadn’t made a choice to favor one over the other, and that might make us look sloppy instead of coming across as a character note for that particular character. He agreed.
But now I’m editing the twenty-two short stories in our upcoming anthology, The Night, and the Rain, and the River, and different authors have different preferences. Technically both are correct. If an author uses both in a story, I feel like it’s license to switch them all to “toward,” but what about an author who is language conscious about pairing the word “towards” with other S-sounds in a sentence? In one story, for instance, I can guess that “towards” was used for sound, and to give a sense of the character’s voice.
The rules feel different here, editing an anthology; for one thing, I’m not the official editor on this project. That’s the brilliant, and discerning, Liz Prato. For another, here are twenty-two different writers, all serious about their craft, all making decisions with reasons, and yet I don’t want the quality or style to change from story to story, because we want this to be an even, measured reading experience. And we want it to conform to press standards, Forest Avenue style, which is mostly Chicago Style.
Changing things like “T.V.” to “TV” or converting all the different styles of dashes to our Forest Avenue Press style are obvious, but taking that “s” of “toward” definitely changes the sound. So what to do?
I don’t yet know, honestly. I’m working through the stories, and sending them back to Liz one by one, with my notes in the margins. We’ll see what she says, and we’ll see what the authors say. I think most will be okay with “toward,” but if it’s there for voice, and used intentionally, I expect we’ll consider keeping it, despite the risk of looking like we are uneven in our style decisions. Consistency vs. art. Style vs. voice. One author’s view of the words on the page vs. the other twenty-one authors. Liz’s thoughts vs. my thoughts vs. our copy editor’s thoughts.
I love this part: when we all chime in, and reach an agreeable decision, the discussions are fascinating, and the result makes the work stronger.