“While” is often used to mean “during the time that” or “when”—in other words, to indicate that two things are happening simultaneously. When used in this way, there’s no comma before “while.” Adding a comma is incorrect in this context.
“While” meaning “whereas”: Comma before “while”
“While” is also used to mean “whereas” or “although”—to contrast one statement with another. When this is what you mean, add a comma before “while.” Leaving out the comma is wrong and will suggest to the reader that you’re using “while” in the other sense.
“While” at the start of a sentence
When the “while” clause appears at the start of the sentence, there should be a comma at the end of the clause (not next to the word “while” itself). This applies regardless of whether “while” is used to mean “during the time that” or “whereas.” This comma should always be added.
Is there ever a comma after “while”?
There’s usually no reason to put a comma after “while,” regardless of the sense you’re using it in. By default, don’t add one:
I’m a big fan of sushi, while, my boyfriend prefers Italian food.
The only time you need a comma after “while” is when it’s immediately followed by an interrupter: a phrase that interrupts the sentence to add some sort of emphasis or qualification to the statement. An interrupter is always surrounded by commas.
Worksheet: Comma before or after “while”
If you want to test your understanding of how to use commas with “while,” try completing the worksheet below. Just add commas to the sentences wherever you think they’re needed (or add no commas if they aren’t needed).
While he may be talented, he doesn’t take his work seriously.
Because the “while” clause comes first, a comma is included at the end of it, after “talented.”
While you were out, somebody came by and asked after you.
Again, the “while” clause comes first, so a comma separates it from the following clause.
I’m quite obsessive about cleanliness, while my girlfriend can be a bit messy.
In this sentence, “while” is used to mean “whereas” (i.e., to introduce a contrast between two statements). Because of this, there’s a comma before “while.”
There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence for this trend, while, admittedly, little hard data is available.
Again, “while” introduces a contrast, so it’s preceded by a comma. In this case it’s also followed by the interrupter “undoubtedly,” which qualifies the statement being made. The interrupter also needs to be surrounded by commas.
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If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.