Professional Style


May 2009
Spot the Error

Because Rebecca has little time to read anything except trade journals, she decided to suspend her subscription to the local newspaper for awhile.

Which is it—awhile or a while? One word or two? The meanings are similar and can easily cause confusion. Here’s the difference:

  • Awhile – for a period of time (the “for” is already built into the meaning).
  • While – a period of time.

In the “subscription” sentence above, it is redundant to say “for awhile”; it’s the same as saying, “for for a period of time.” To resolve the problem, the writer could either drop “for” (“...suspend her subscription to the local newspaper awhile”) or turn awhile into two words (“...suspend her subscription to the local newspaper for a while”). Because the meanings are the same, it’s simply a matter of choice.

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