Posted by: episystechpubs | May 18, 2015

Editor’s Corner: A pile of a while

I am going through different questions and requests from readers and here is one I promised to discuss a while ago. I hope it sheds some light on when to use awhile versus a while. The dictionary definitions (in black) are from our buddies at Merriam-Webster.

while (noun): a period of time especially when short and marked by the occurrence of an action or a condition

Helpful hint: When there is a preposition, use a while (for a while; in a while).


· I sat in the garden for a while. (I sat in the garden for a short time.)

· Don drove his Cadillac for a while and then opted for a more fuel-efficient car. (Don drove his Cadillac for a short time.)

· She left a while ago, before we served dessert. (She left a short time ago.)

awhile (adverb): for a short time

Helpful hint: Awhile is used when there is not a preposition. It is an adverb which modifies a verb.


· We can wait awhile for Susan. (Awhile modifies the verb wait.)

· After running the marathon, I’ll need to rest awhile. (Awhile modifies the verb rest.)

Extra Helpful Hint: If you aren’t sure whether to use awhile or a while, try substituting another adverb in the sentence (something like quickly, hurriedly, slowly, angrily, etc.). If the adverb works, you should use awhile. If it doesn’t sound right, use a while.

· She said she would meet for quickly. (Yuck, this definitely doesn’t work. Use a while here.)

She said she would meet for a while.

· She said she would meet quickly. (Okay. Not sure why she’s in such a rush, but it is grammatically sound. In this case you would use awhile.)

She said she would meet awhile.

For a previous article on this topic, see this issue of the Editor’s Corner.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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