Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"While" -- a comma makes it mean "whereas"

from Ruge Rules

The Rule: "While" can be used to mean "during the time that," and it can be used to mean "whereas."

In the former case, while is not preceded by a comma.
In the latter case, while must be preceded by a comma.

So: I can't study while my little brother is beating on his drum.
And: The Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful, while the Rockies are grand.

Purists and copyeditors tend to frown on the use of "while" to mean "whereas," because the meaning depends upon the comma and points of punctuation have a perverse way of not being where they should be.
If you choose to use "while" to mean "whereas," it's important to be assiduous in your punctuation.


Aritul said...

Very interesting. I did not know that.

Prateek Saxena said...

Thanks! This helped.

Mary Black said...

What about such a sentence:
"Call-center increases customer loyalty while protecting the client's reputation"?

It means, more or less, "at the time when...", but not literary.

carol debra l said...

Mary, here I think, while follows a phrase, a reduced clause. In other words. Call-center increases customer loyalty while it protects the client's reputation. (Underlying structure). No comma.

Songbird333 said...

What about this phrase?

She took a shower, then fixed her hair while brushing her teeth. (comma or not?)
Thank you.

cgtrinh said...

No comma, because 'while' cannot be replaced by 'whereas' in this context.

Songbird333 said...

thank you cgtrinh