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I know it’s OK to start sentences with While, but is it OK to start a text with it? For example:

While electron-electron correlations and interactions are crucial in the descriptions of atoms and molecules, studies of ionization in the strong-field régime have in general ignored their effects.

I’ve had a look in the corpora but I can’t quite see how to ask the question there.

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You mean an SMS text? Yes. Any ordinary sentence? Also yes. –  Robusto Mar 14 '13 at 13:41
No, I mean a normal, printed-on-a-page text. –  episanty Mar 14 '13 at 13:41
(I wouldn't really be texting about electron-electron correlations and molecular ionization.) –  episanty Mar 14 '13 at 13:42
You could be. In which case your six standard deviations (at least) above the intellectual norm for texting. –  Robusto Mar 14 '13 at 13:45
Sure, start your whole 1000-page textbook with "While". –  GEdgar Mar 14 '13 at 13:58
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2 Answers

While beginning a text with the word while is perfectly acceptable, your primary concern, it seems to me, should be its effect on your audience, and whether or not the sentence is sufficiently strong to draw them into what you have to say.

"While electron-electron correlations and interactions . . ." has an informal and slightly chatty feel to it. The sentence sounds as if it would be more appropriate in the middle of a paragraph, and not at the beginning. Here's a hypothetical and illustrative paragraph, which for simplicity's sake contains blanks:

The phenomenon of __ has been well attested in the literature. Scientists and theorists in the field, from John __ in the 1990s to Carol __ early in the new century, have described the phenomenon in elegant detail. While we should be grateful for their efforts to date, we still have a great deal to learn, specifically in the phenomenon's __ . It is my purpose in this book, therefore, to use the discoveries of the past as a springboard for __ , in the hopes of stimulating further explorations into __ . With a little luck and a lot of hard work, perhaps we could be instrumental in ushering in a veritable paradigm shift in this exciting stage of discovery. We are arguably on the cusp of doing just that!

In a perhaps overly simplified explanation of the above, you have the following: a solid and foundational statement, followed by a few prominent examples to buttress your first statement. Then there comes a transitional statement that accomplishes two things. First, it praises the findings of past researchers (assuming their contributions to the field are considered unassailable by your peers), and second, it points to what needs to be done if your community of scientists is to push the envelope of discovery to the next level. That's where your studies in the field, which you plan to explain and develop in your text, become relevant to your readers. Make sense?

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Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

"You mean an SMS text? Yes. Any ordinary sentence? Also yes." – Robusto

You can try.

"You can try. Only the publisher, editor, and peer reviewers get to tell you whether your attempt will succeed." – Bill Franke

(And a little bit irony here)

"Sure, start your whole 1000-page textbook with While." – GEdgar

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I think love makes a good point that our users really need to stop answering questions in the comments, and start answering questions in the answer box instead. –  KitFox Mar 15 '13 at 3:14
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