It really shouldn’t be too hard to keep these words straight, but I see them misspelled all the time. Many writers put a “forward” in their book. And at the end, they have an “afterward.” Yes, they might be acting a bit forward when they introduce their story, and maybe afterward, they have something to say. But afterward is an adverb (it modifies a verb), and forward can be either an adverb or an adjective–and even a verb. Okay, there is a noun form of forward, as you football players might be wont to point out. But the key to this mystery is tied up in four little letters, which form the word word.
What does fore mean (and I don’t mean what you yell out when you hit the golf ball)? It basically means “before.” So if you are going to put a bunch of words before the body of your book, those will be forewords. Hence, the correct term foreword. Do I really need to go through this explanation for afterword? I think not.
Well, then, is there a difference between foreword/afterword and prologue/epilogue? Good question (and you can spell those last two words without the “ue” as a variation–same with dialog). Usually a foreword is written by someone other than the author of the book. Or it might be better to say that if someone else writes an introduction or commentary at the front of a book, it would not be called a prologue. A foreword is usually prefatory comments. A prologue, in contrast, is often assumed to be material related and connected to the rest of the book, not something ancillary. Same goes for the afterword and epilogue.
A note about epilogues in novels: I see many final chapters called epilogues, which are really just the last chapters of a novel wrapping up the story. An epilogue basically summarizes and reflects on the story as a whole. It isn’t the “ending” of the novel’s plot. A true epilogue will feel different from the rest of the novel, and may be presented as if years later, with a character reflecting back on the whole story or telling how things turned out for all the players. The kind of thing we see often in plays, where a character sums everything up (think The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends. Amen.