Why Writing a Forward to a Book Is Not as Good as Writing a Foreword
by Owen Fourie
The first time I saw this error was in a textbook I found in my classroom.
Instead of using the term foreword, the compilers had used forward. As far as I could tell, it was an error of ignorance, further confirming my distrust of textbooks.
This error is widespread. Search on the Internet, and you will find headings like this one:
How to Write a Forward for a Biography
With a little care and some intelligence, this is a mistake that you can avoid. Consider the meaning and proper use of forward and foreword.
Forward is a word that can refer to movement or position. It can be used to indicate the opposite of reversing or of going back or backwards. The following sentences indicate only some of this word’s many uses:
- If you move the car forward, you can take advantage of the shade offered by those trees several yards ahead of us. (adverb)
- The forward part of a ship is called the bow. (adjective)
- You should forward this report to the chief executive officer. (verb)
- In basketball, hockey, and soccer, an attacking player is a forward. (noun)
Foreword is a noun that belongs particularly to the world of books.
Literally, it is “the word that goes before.” It is the word that comes before the rest of the text in a book.
It is written by someone who is not the author of the book but who is, perhaps, an expert in the subject the book addresses. It may establish the credibility of the author and serve as a commendation of the work.
To refer to this part of a book as the forward is an indication that the writer is not well versed in the terminology of books and writing. It is another instance of writing according to the ear, going by what is heard rather than by what is verified.
The foreword must not be confused with the preface or the introduction or the prologue of a book.
- The preface of a book is usually written by the author of that book. It can give information about the origin, development, purpose, and scope of the work. The author’s acknowledgments of help received may also be included here.
- The introduction is also the work of the author or of an editor in the case of a work by several contributing authors. The overall theme of the book may be described here with reference to the various sections and chapters to give the reader a preliminary perspective of the whole work.
- The prologue is tied to the substance of a work. It can serve to highlight the main action of a story that is made known even before the plot unfolds.
Froward has nothing to do with the above confusion, but it is mentioned here because of its similarity in spelling to forward.
It is an adjective that describes a person who is given to being contrary in various matters, and stubbornly so, where others are normally willing to comply. A froward child can be the cause of much unpleasantness.
Now that you are aware of the distinction between foreword and forward, you will not be guilty of being froward by stubbornly using forward instead of foreword when you refer to the endorsement of an author’s work.
If you are aware of other words, such as the homophones forward and foreword, that ought not to be confused, mention them here. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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