While vs. Though or Although

Here’s a word I change a lot when I’m editing: “while.” I see it used like this often: “While pedaling along the beachfront sidewalk is delightful, so too is stopping for a snowcone at the beachfront snack bar.”

A myth out there alleges that this is an outright error. The idea is that “while” means “during,” so you can’t use it to mean “though” or
“although.” Not true.

while. conjunction:

1. … on the other hand … whereas

2. … in spite of the fact that, although (while respected, he is not liked)

3 … similarly and at the same time that (while the book will be welcomed by scholars, it will make an immediate appeal to the general reader)

That’s Merriam-Webster’s take on “while.” So clearly, it’s correct to use it as in the example sentence above. But is it a good idea? That’s a different question.

Whenever “while” comes before an action, especially an action expressed as an “ing” verb, it sounds like you’re using the other definition of “while”: “during the time that.” So “while pedaling” sounds like you mean “during the time that you’re pedaling.” And in this sentence, it’s going to be a long time until the reader gets your real meaning “while pedaling is …” When we get to the verb, "is," we can see that "while" was meant as “although.”

In my book, any “while” that can lead the reader astray should probably be replaced. “Although pedaling along the beachfront sidewalk is delightful, so too is stopping for a snowcone.”

 

 

 

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