Let’s look at the differences between ’til, till, and until with Grammar Rules from the Writer’s Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
If you haven’t picked up since I started doing these grammar rules posts a couple years back, I’m no grouchy grammarian. That’s partially because I’m not usually grouchy, but I also feel like I make mistakes and am constantly learning the same as anyone else. Case in point is this week’s post on ’til, till, and until; I’ve been getting wrong myself for a while now.
So let’s look at the differences between ’til, till, and until and when to use each.
‘Til vs. Till vs. Until
‘Til is an abbreviation of until that is actually incorrect. It’s often used by poets, songwriters, and people who absorb both.
Till is the proper synonym for the preposition and conjunction of until. In fact, this post from Merriam-Webster explains that till is actually the older word between the two. Of course, till can also be used as a verb to indicate cultivating the earth for planting, and it can be used as a noun to indicate glacial drift or a container with money in it (or the actual money within the container).
Until is a preposition and conjunction that indicates time For instance, writers have to wait until Monday to get the next Grammar Rules post each week.
Here are a few examples of ’til, till, and until:
Incorrect: She waited ’til dawn to leave without him.
Correct: She waited till dawn to leave without him.
Correct: She waited until dawn to leave without him.
Correct: He played his trombone till everyone departed.
Incorrect: He played his trombone ’til everyone departed.
Correct: He played his trombone until everyone departed.
Correct: They danced until the end of time.
Incorrect: They danced ’til the end of time.
Correct: They danced till the end of time.
I admit I had this rule completely wrong. I thought ’til was the correct abbreviation and that till was something you did to the soil. I could blame my Appalachian and poetic background, but honestly, I just had it wrong. Does this mean poets will quit using ’til in their poetry? Of course not, but now I won’t consider the use of “till” a mistake either.
So, to be clear, till and until are correct, and ’til is only suitable for poets, songwriters, and those who dream in such circles.
No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.