Afterward vs. Afterword: How to Choose the Right Word

“Afterword” and “afterward” are homophones (or nearly homophones). Although they sound alike, they are spelled differently and have different meanings. Despite the fact that “afterword” “afterward” have the same meaning, these two words have little in common.

How to Use Afterward

“Afterward” is interchangeable with the words “after” and “later.” “Afterward” usually refers to events that occur close together.

“Afterward” is usually used to refer to events that occur immediately after each other—for example, “Jane attended a coffee hour after church.”—but it can also be used to refer to events that are widely separated in time—for example, “Mary was born in 1910 and had her three children long afterward.”

How to Use Afterword

As another word for an epilogue, “afterword” refers to a text’s conclusion. In the past, afterwords have been called author notes since they are typically written by authors of books, plays, or other important works.

Authors can use the “afterword” to reflect on their work or acknowledge others who contributed to its success. Often, an “afterword” is added to later printings or updated versions of a book, especially one that has received significant positive or negative criticism, so that the author can respond to criticism and add insight.


There is a difference between “afterward” and “afterword.” They should not be used interchangeably due to their different meanings.

  • “We enjoyed a large dinner and afterwards had coffee and a gooey dessert,” uses the word “afterwards” to place events chronologically: First, we ate dinner, and then we ate dessert.
  • When he says, “It’s not the election itself that concerns me but what happens afterward,” he refers once again to timing: the election will take place first, followed by dealing with the results later.
  • An “afterword” refers to a short essay that might otherwise be called “author notes” in the sentence “In a thoughtful afterword, the author described her writing process and acknowledged the difficulties she encountered with such a difficult topic.”

How to Remember the Difference

It is easiest to distinguish between “afterword” and “afterword” by remembering that “afterword” contains the word “word.” Therefore, an “afterword” is the author’s final words. On the other hand, “afterward” always refers to time.

Usage Note

Afterwards and afterwards mean the same thing, but they’re generally used in different contexts. The term “afterward” is more common in American English, while the term “afterwards” is more common in British and Canadian English.

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