Ode to nitpickertool

One of my favorite things on the internet is nitpickertool. It’s barely maintained, sometimes broken, and much less popular than, say, Grammarly. But its suggestions have made me think.

One of my favorites is this:

While some people like grapes, others prefer oranges.

‘While’ refers to time — did you mean ‘whereas’ or ‘although?’

When I first saw this hint, I consulted the dictionary to confirm that, yep, “while” can mean “even though” or “although.” But on a deeper level, nitpickertool’s suggestion is about context-sensitivity and about specificity. If I wrote “Kevin plays the drums, while Tom plays the guitar,” the action verbs suggest that we’re playing the instruments at the same time — not just that we play the instruments. And if I wrote “Jim guards the door while John cracks the safe,” you’d almost certainly gather that the guarding and cracking actions happened contemporaneously.

The alternatives to “while,” including “whereas,” “and,” “although,” and “but,” never refer to time: when you use them as conjunctions, you use their first listed definitions. The sentence relies less on context and the reader has less to infer — there’s less ambiguity to resolve. And furthermore, they explicitly describe the relationship between the two phrases. Using “although” or “but” makes the contradiction or tension obvious on first read.

Give nitpickertool a shot. It may find ways to make your writing sharper, or may just make you think.