When you want to write the southern American pronoun contraction of “you” and “all,” the correct form is “y’all.” “Ya’ll” is the wrong way to write this. The only exception is if you’re writing a story and you want to illustrate the speech of an uneducated or youthful character.
Americans have many quaint phrases. “Y’all” is one. But it’s specifically localized from the southern states like Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina. However, it has nationwide use.
“Y’all” in Context
There is a concept in English called “contracted pronouns.” A contraction is when two words combine to make one word, usually indicated by an apostrophe (‘) somewhere within the word. “Y’all,” is one of these but it’s a way to informally address people.
To make the contraction “Y’all,” place an apostrophe where you omit the “ou.” Ergo, this becomes a plural pronoun and is very useful when addressing more than one person.
Standard: Hey you all, we need to go to the store now!
Contraction: Hey y’all, we need to go to the store now!
Standard: I don’t know what you all were thinking.
Contraction: I don’t know what y’all were thinking.
Y’all For a Single Person
An alternative use of “y’all” is when you want to talk about a plural group of people but you’re currently only speaking to one person. This is because you’re also including the associated people with the person to whom you’re addressing.
Hi Sally, I saw your family earlier today. What time are y’all coming to church?
Official or Formal Writing
You would never use “y’all” in formal writing for letters, correspondence, or discussions of an official nature. While “y’all” isn’t entirely slang, it’s not ideal for professional purposes. You use it to talk to friends, family, or other people in a casual setting.
Why “Ya’ll” Is Incorrect
Word experts are adamant that “Ya’ll” is the wrong spelling. It’s not proper English to write it this way. However, creative writers and literary types will intentionally misspell some words to indicate the character of a person within the story. But this is not the norm and should not become a regular writing habit.
“Y’all” is the proper way to spell and use this contracted pronoun. “Ya’ll” is incorrect. Of all the confusion one can come across in the English language, this is one of the simpler ones to remember.