ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Vicissitudes of Being Edited - Toward vs Towards

Here I am, once again, going through edits on this, my eleventh novel. It's an interesting process. I'm pretty open to most edits, after all, I am a product of the Tennessee education system of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which received the least amount of money per child than any other state at the time. Therefore, I understand my own faults. I'm also a product of pop culture, so I tend to spell things in the popular manner, instead of the appropriate manner, sometimes.

Frankly, I'm just happy to be edited by real competent people. Thank you St. Martin's Press and Thomas Dunne Books for assigning a platoon of Ivy League graduates to assault edit SEAL Team 666: Age of Blood. I can always use a good edit. Hell, as is the case, I can always use five good edits. Bring them on.

One of the funny things, though, is I can always tell when someone is trained in British grammar or U.S. grammar. Or more specifically, I can always tell whether The Element of Style by Strunk and White or The Chicago Manual of Style is their grammar reference.

Geoffrey K. Pullum in a NY Times article says, 'The anodyne style advice that Strunk and White offers is harmless enough,' but their 'simplistic don’t-do-this, don’t-write-that instructions offered in the book would not guarantee good writing if they were obeyed.' The article continues to quote others about the book's shortfalls, but the one thing about The Elements of Style is that it is pleasantly short and to the point. Truly, The Elements of Style is a thin book, if whose pages were torn and rolled, could be smoked in a matter of days, if not hours.

Wherein The Chicago Manual of Style is a prodigous tome which could be used as a lethal weapon.

But does size matter?

There are many who would say it always matters. On that subject, I'll defer, but as far as grammar, because I'm from the U.S. and writing primarily for a U.S. market, I refer to the Chicago Manual of Style.

What's the difference, you ask? Here's an example with whether to use that or which. Also, here Absolute Write people pine about the books in kind of a funny way.

There's also the serial comma. Dear lord, arguments about this havecaused wars.

PRO SERIAL COMMA: "By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector." Languagehat dug this gem out of a comment thread on the serial comma. It's from a TV listing in The Times. It supports the use of the Oxford comma, but only because it keeps Mandela from being a dildo collector. However, even the Oxford comma can't keep him from being an 800-year-old demigod. There's only so much a comma can do.
I've been converted to the serial comma because my NY Editors like it and because of my appreciation for Nelson Mandela.

But now I'm facing a different dilemma.  The use of the word toward or towards, as in showing direction to an object or a place.

Which one is correct?

I'm afraid that both of them are. Yep. You have it right. The British way is towards and the U.S. way is toward. In some space-time-continuem insanity, it seems that I've been using the British way and assing the s every time. In What Tim Lebbon-running, Sarah Pinborough-Chardonnay Drinking, Neil Gaiman-singing British universe have I found myself in? I didn't even know I was there.

So what do my Ivy League-trained, serial-comma-loving-NY-publishers want? The American way. Check out Mirriam Webster for the reasoning.

I feel bad for the line editor. He corrected my towards to toward 185 times in this manuscript. I hope he was paid well for each one. In fact, if he was paid for each one, I might be his favorite client.

So onward and upward, towards toward success I go. Soon, I shall learn the lessons, which that that which I should learn to be the author of which editors dream. HAHA

Seriously. And here I sit in Afghanistan, editing, contemplating editing, and editing.


As my wife says, this is what makes me a professional.


Weston Ochse
Kabul, Afghanistan


  1. Didn't know about toward/towards, still screw up That and Which, but I'm doing better with my commas. Stay safe.

  2. Always been an Oxford comma fan myself, though I tend toward "toward."

  3. The real problem occurs when you (the author) simply don't like the way the Chicago Mangle of Style makes things look. Then, oh Lord, what a battle with the editor. My main battle comes with section 8.18, Titles. I write fantasy and SF, and somehow it just doesn't look right to say "the captain entered the bridge" or "the king raised his scepter." Why do I use a capital in "Captain Kirk entered the bridge" but not if I just say "captain"? It's a specific person, I capitalize his name, I ought to capitalize his title if I'm using that just to provide a variety of forms.

    I did get around it once or twice though, by saying it was done the way I wanted in "The Wiccan Edition of CMoS."

  4. I have a similar problem. Editors correct me all over the place for capitalizing titles, when I'm talking about someone in particular, but leave off their name. ::shrugs::

  5. I was told years ago by a friend who had been a professional editor that I'm a good writer in need of a good editor. I suspect that many of us are. When the creative juices start to flow, even I, as a certified English teacher, am not functioning as the professional writing instructor that I am. So bring on the edits! Many times my writing has been improved by not just another set of eyes, but a set that has a different viewpoint, and can suggest enhancements that improve my work! Thanks and thanks again!
    P.S. My Dad was from Scotland. I use towards and forwards all the time! Don't get me started on why I don't write or even read Highlander romances!