Definition of foreword, introduction, and preface OK, let’s get started. Easy enough to say, but what do we start with? What comes first, a foreword, an introduction, or a preface? The best way to approach the subject is to look at what they do.
A foreword, if we follow the generally accepted definition in publishing, is an introduction to a book by someone other than the author. It comes right after the Table of Contents, and the pages are numbered with lower-case Roman numerals, e.g., i, ii, iii, etc., rather than the Arabic numerals used for the text of the book.
Ideally, it’s written by an expert on the subject of the book who says that the author did a good job writing about the subject. The foreword generally speaks well of the author.
A foreword, as the spelling indicates, is a word that comes before. It’s not a forward, which is a direction, or a foreward, which is a misspelling.
A preface is usually written by the author of a book and often gives an overview of how the book came to be written, its intended purpose, and to what extent it covers the topic. It may come before or after the foreword, but it usually comes after and follows the same page numbering system. The preface may also include acknowledgements.
An introduction is also written by the author (or, sometimes, the editor). It’s an essay that sets up the full topic of a book. It states what the author’s point of view is and may indicate what the reader’s point of view should be. After reading the introduction to find out what’s in the book, the reader can decide whether or not to read it. Since it’s part of the text, the pages are numbered with the same numbering system as the text.