Word Choice – Until versus till versus ’til

BizWritingTip reader: “I have seen ‘till and ‘til. Which is correct?”

BizWritingTip response: First of all, ‘till is incorrect.

According to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, the correct word is till (no apostrophe); it is an accepted variant of until and “may be used interchangeably with it except at the beginning of a sentence.” The decision as to whether to use till or until is often decided by the way the sentence sounds.

Examples (all correct)

He worked until dawn.
He worked till dawn.
It was agreed to postpone the vote until all members could be present.
It was agreed to postpone the vote till all members could be present.

For those readers who like the history behind a word, “till” is actually the older word. It can be found as far back as the year 800 in the Old Norse language. “Until” only started to show up in the English language in about the 1300s.

In the 18th century, it became fashionable to spell the word as ’till, as if it was a shortened version of until. Nowadays, ’till is considered incorrect; however, ’til is accepted as an informal way of expressing until, e.g., shop ’til you drop, or ‘til we meet again.

Frankly, I feel ‘til looks a little too casual. I would never recommend using it in a report or proposal.

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