Is "till" in the following sentence valid?

You must write in formal style till the end of this exercise.

I don't think it's correct, but I can't really say why. I read a question on ELU about this, https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/6989/what-is-the-difference-between-till-and-until , but none of those answers would say you can't use "till" here.

1 Answer 1


It's a standard and idiomatic way of shortening until. Another way of doing is it 'til. It's informal but not incorrect. I always change till to until when I edit biomedical papers, but I wouldn't bother doing it for humanities or philosophy papers, and I certainly wouldn't suggest that it not be used in any other kind of writing, unless the writer's style manual said it was verboten.

For an English class, to tell students that "You must write in formal style till the end of this exercise" is prima facie contradictory. This sentence is less than formal because of the word "till".

  • 1
    Technically, till isn't a shortening; it's the older word. Until is derived from it.
    – user230
    Commented May 10, 2013 at 13:50
  • 1
    @snailboat: This is a historical problem that really has nil to do with modern English usage. Before Dickens, apparently, "ain't" was proper English, but now it's considered substandard. Looking at the eytmologies on the Net of till & until doesn't tell me much that helps, only that they're related to Frisian, Old English, Middle English, Proto-Germanic, Gothic, & other essentially dead languages. Maybe the OED makes it clearer. Michael Quinion supports both of us. Still, till's shorter than until.
    – user264
    Commented May 10, 2013 at 14:20

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