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May 19, 2011

Properly Using While



by Tyler Krupa


This week, we address another item on the list of frequent APA Style points that writers find most challenging (on the basis of the recent article by Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, & Frels, 2010; also see their recent guest post to our blog): the misuse of while.

According to the 6th edition of the APA Publication Manual (p. 84), the use of while should be limited to its temporal meaning (i.e., to link events occurring simultaneously). When that is not what is meant, the terms although, whereas, and, or but should be substituted in its place. To help clarify, examples of while being used correctly are listed below:

  • One woman abused by her father sobbed while describing why she had not pressed charges against him.
  • The participant stared at the computer monitor while he listened to the audiotapes.
  • The patient took deep breaths while the doctor listened with a stethoscope. 

For comparison, examples of when it would be more precise not to use while are listed below:

  • Although the results are encouraging, future research still needs to be performed.
  • Risk factors focus on pathology and hazards, whereas protective factors emphasize positivism and hope for change.

We hope these examples help to clear up any confusion regarding the proper use of this term. If not, feel free to leave a comment while this topic is on your mind!


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