Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: till; until.

till; until. “Till” is, like “until,” a bona fide preposition and conjunction. Though less formal than “until,” “till” is neither colloquial nor substandard. As Anthony Burgess put it, “In nonpoetic English we use ’till’ and ‘until’ indifferently.” A Mouthful of Air 158 (1992). It’s especially common in British English — e.g.: “He works from dawn till dusk, six days a week.” Adrian Brewer, “The House of God That Justo Built,” Daily Telegraph, 31 Mar. 1997, at 17. And it still occurs in American English — e.g.: “In medium skillet, sauté the garlic till golden. Add onion, wait till brown.” Jan Norris, “Latin, Asian Fests Add Spice to Weekend,” Palm Beach Post, 23 Mar. 1995, at FN1. But the myth of the word’s low standing persists. Some writers and editors mistakenly think that “till” deserves a bracketed sic — e.g.: “‘Trading in cotton futures was not practiced till [sic] after the close of the Civil War, spot cotton being quoted like other stocks in cents, halves, quarters, etc.'” J. Steve Oliver & B. Kim Nichols, “Early Days,” School Science & Mathematics, 1 Apr. 1997, at 216 (in which the “sic” appeared in the original source being quoted). If a form deserves a “sic,” it’s the incorrect *”’til.” Worse yet is *”’till,” which is abominable — e.g.: “A month or two remain ’till [read ’till’] you grab your dancing shoes, plus a crew of pals or that special date.” Francine Parnes, “Primping for the Prom,” Denver Post, 21 Mar. 1997, at E1. Language-Change Index — (1) *”’til” for “till”: Stage 2; (2) *”’till” for “till”: Stage 1. *Invariably inferior form. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “One unfortunate word can sometimes ruin the whole effect of a noble paragraph or a fine verse.” Henry Bett, Some Secrets of Style 110 (1932).

1 thought on “Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: till; until.”

  1. Fascinating. I was taught in college that ’til was the correct form and that till should only be used when talking about tilling the ground. It’s going to be very hard to break my indoctrinated disdain for till.

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