While is one of those words with connotations that can create confusion for writers and readers alike. Yet if we pull back the curtain, we again we find the culprit behind the confusion is a failure to distinguish between written English and spoken English.
The word while means a period of time or at the same time. It thus often serves a transitional function in sentences. Yet it is this very function, combined with the more fluid conventions of spoken English, that sets the stage for creating confusion in written communications.
Consider the example sentence in the cropped graphic above. Here the writer uses while outside its denotation to contrast between separate two elements. But contrast is better indicated with a word like although or whereas. So the more effective technical writer, employing precision of language, will use one of those words. Here’s how a corrected sentence might result.
Whereas galvanic corrosion caused the failure at the Philmore plant, fretting fatigue caused the failure at the Johnston plant.
Fretting fatigue caused the failure at the Johnston plant, whereas galvanic corrosion caused the failure at the Philmore plant.
Galvanic corrosion caused the failure at the Philmore plant, and fretting fatigue caused the failure at the Johnston plant.
So don’t while away your writing! Use care while using while. More precise language makes more effective technical writing. And more effective writing both makes a more effective presentation and better represents you and your brands.
And just so you know, I won’t be posting next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy your holiday!