Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: while.

while. “While” for “although” or “whereas” is permissible and often all but necessary, despite what purists sometimes say about the word’s inherent element of time. “While” is a more relaxed and conversational term than “although” or “whereas,” and it works nicely when introducing a contrast — e.g.: o “But while vertical malls like Manhattan Mall and nearby Herald Center have struggled, multi-story shops are becoming de rigueur for many big-name retailers from Barnes & Noble to Banana Republic.” Amy Feldman, “Manhattan Mall on Sale Now,” Crain’s N.Y. Bus., 17 Feb. 1997, at 1. o “Five of the nine Dallas school board members are white, while only 11 percent of Dallas’ schoolchildren are white.” Chris Newton, “Turmoil Continues in Dallas Schools,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 18 Sept. 1997, at A9. The Oxford English Dictionary traces this use back to Shakespeare in 1588 (Love’s Labour’s Lost). Though the use is quite proper, writers must be on guard for the occasional ambiguity. For instance, does it denote time or contrast in the following sentence? “[The] former spokeswoman . . . claim[s] she was fired in April because she is white, while the hospital’s management was seeking to build bridges to Tampa’s black community.” “Cigar Maker From Spain to Purchase Havatampa,” Tampa Bay Bus. J., 19 Sept. 1997, at 4. The sense is surely a contrasting one, but the sentence undesirably causes the reader to hesitate. Further, “while” shouldn’t be used merely for “and” — e.g.: “Her father, J. Frank McKenna III, is a lawyer, while [read ‘and’] her mother, Colleen O’Shaughnessy McKenna, is the author of 17 children’s books, many of which are set in Catholic schools.” Mary Lee Gannon, “Catholic Has Service on Mind,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 12 June 1996, at N9. Language-Change Index — “while” used in nontemporal sense: Stage 5. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “The writer must support generalizations with illustrations, premises with supporting arguments, hypotheses with evidence, assertions with facts. The temptation to rely more on sound than sense is always a danger.” Kenneth S. Rothwell, Questions of Rhetoric and Usage 6 (1971).
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