About one in twenty manuscripts we receive starts with a “Forward.” That makes sense because at that point it’s the only direction you can go in the book, unless you want to read the title page again.
The problem is that it is wrong.
Where are we going with this?
Forward is a direction. A Foreword is a message about the book to come. As in, “let’s have a word about this book before we start. A fore word.
It is not part of the story itself. A Foreword is written by someone besides the author. Her mother, perhaps. It’s like an Introduction, but an Introduction is usually written by the author and is considered part of the book itself. If you lop off the Foreword, the rest of the book makes sense just fine.
Some people get creative and use “Forward” as the title of their Foreword. (Man, this is getting tough to proofread!) It’s their way of declaring, “Off we go into this subject!” The problem is that other people, especially snobs like me, don’t think they’re being clever. We just think they screwed up and have a typo as the very first word of the very first chapter in their very first book.
In the end
Sometimes new information comes to light after a book was written. Like at the end of a movie when they list all the characters and “where are they now.” The author may tack this update onto the end of his book, addressing the reader directly in the first person. That’s called an Afterword. And you write it afterward.
See how nice and tidy that is? Now you know everything.
An Afterword is like an Epilogue, except it, uh, it’s… well, really they’re alike only because they both come afterward. An Epilogue sums up the book, but it’s part of the story. It’s a bookend to the Prologue, or Introduction. Epilogue has a Greek root meaning “conclusion.” I didn’t know that until just this minute when I looked it up.
So Foreword ⇒ Afterword. Introduction ⇒ Conclusion. Prologue ⇒ Epilogue. Now go forth and write your own.