Afterword or Afterward: What’s the Difference?

Choosing between afterword or afterward is sometimes challenging, but this guide will help you get it right.

The words afterword or afterward are very confusing for some writers because they sound the same when you speak them. Like most homophones, these two words have different meanings and usages.

In fact, they are actually different parts of speech. Afterward is an adverb, while afterword is a noun. Taking a closer look at their meanings, etymology, and synonyms will help you keep the words straight.

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Should You Use Afterword Or Afterward? Here’s How to Decide

Afterword or afterward

While the words afterword or afterward are similar in sound and spelling, they have very different meanings. Choosing the right one starts with understanding these differences.

Definition of Afterward

The word afterward is an adverb. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines afterward as “at a later or succeeding time.” In other words, this word describes something that happens at a later time.

This word can also show directionality, indicating something comes after other items in a line or series.

Here are some example sentences using afterward correctly:

  • First, we will go to the concert, then we will get some ice cream afterward.
  • Shortly afterward, we were able to board the plane to New York City.
  • They issued an apology afterward, but by that point, the damage had already been done.

Etymology of Afterward

Afterward first came into the English language in the 13th century. The Middle English use of the word meant “behind, in the rear, at a later time.” in Middle English, it was sometimes spelled afterwardes. 

The word comes from the Old English word æfterweard which means “behind, following.” 

Synonyms for Afterward

The word afterward has several synonyms. These include:

  • After
  • Later
  • Latterly
  • Subsequently
  • Thereafter 

Definition of Afterword

  • Though it sounds similar to afterward, afterword is a different word. Merriam-Webster defines it as an”epilogue.” It is the concluding section of a book or the end of a book that tells a little more about the story. Often the afterword serves as a follow-up to the story or the data presented in the book.

Here are some example sentences using afterword correctly:

  • The afterword of the novel gave the author’s insight into the character and his journey.
  • To update the data in the scholarly work, the author added an afterword to the latest addition.
  • The new afterword added quite a bit of insight into the original research.

Etymology of Afterword

The noun afterword is a fairly new word in modern English. It was first used in 1890. It comes from a combining of the word “after” with the word “word.” 

Synonyms for Afterword

Afterword has a few synonyms, including:

  • Addendum
  • Appendix
  • Supplement

Remembering The Difference Between Afterward Vs. Afterword

Because the only difference between these two words is the vowels at the end, they are easy to confuse. If you can remember that afterword contains “word,” and that it relates to books, then you may be able to remember the difference between the two words.

Afterward Vs. Afterwards

Another confusing combo that can come into play in this discussion is afterward and afterward. The words afterward and afterwards have the same meaning but have different usages.

American English writers tend to use afterward as the adjective that shows something happening later. British English writers tend to gravitate toward afterwards.

Understanding that both are legitimate English words will help you the next time you are playing word games, but in formal writing, choose the one that reaches the right geographic audience.

A Final Word on Afterword or Afterward

Because they sound the same and have very similar spellings, afterword and afterward are easily confused in the English language. However, these two words have distinct meanings.

Afterward refers to something that happens later or an item that comes after another item in a series. Afterword is the end portion of a book, such as an epilogue or additional information. 

Using these words correctly will help you polish your writing and avoid unwanted and embarrassing writing mistakes.

FAQs About Afterword or Afterward

Is afterward or afterwards correct?

Afterward and afterwards are both correct. Afterward tends to be the preferred spelling in American English, while afterwards is what British writers prefer.

Is it afterword or afterward?

The answer depends on what you are saying. If you are talking about an addition at the end of a book, you will use afterword. If you are talking about something happening later, you will use afterward.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.