Writing Tip Wednesday: ‘Til or Till?

First of all (and this has nothing to do with my writing tip), I love coming to Starbucks every Wednesday morning before work to write. There’s always something interesting going on. A few weeks ago, it was an old man who sat down and told me his life story. Last week it was a grouch who yelled across the entire room to tell someone to “quiet down” (ironic, huh?). And today it’s a little boy who’s here by himself, toting a few books, stuffing his face with a pastry, and singing softly to himself. Based on where we live and the fact that the song wasn’t in English, I’m guessing he’s preparing for his Bar Mitzvah (which makes me feel a little guilty for eating a ham and egg breakfast sandwich with cheddar). Can I just say I haven’t heard anything sweeter than a little boy’s pure little voice singing in quite awhile? Highlight of my day.

Anyway . . .

This week’s writing tip was prompted by a friend’s question. She asked if the correct spelling is ’til or till. I realized I had no idea. I always used ’til (although I usually don’t use the apostrophe), so I did some research. Here’s what I found (isn’t the Internet fantastic?):

Till has Scottish origins. It means to.

Until comes from till. It also has Scottish origins and means to.

‘Til is a fairly recent addition to the language and is a shortened version of until. So it also means to.

So how do you know which one to use?

Use until in any kind of professional or academic writing. Use till or ’til in less formal writing. But be careful—depending on which you choose, you might spark controversy!

Want more info? My sources said a few conflicting things, but here’s where my information comes from:
Grammar Girl
Dictionary.com (till)
Dictionary.com (until)
Dictionary.com (’til)
Merriam-Webster (till)
Merriam-Webster (until)
Glendale News-Press


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