"Awhile" does not equal "a while," but the trick to remembering the difference is one a lot of people never quite grasp.
The key is to see "a while" as two very separate words--an article and a noun referring to a quantity of time--similar to "a second," "an era," or "a moment."
"Awhile" as one word is an adverb. Only. It answers the question "How long?"
How long will we wait?
Let's wait awhile.
So, in today's title, "awhile" modifies "chat." How long will we chat? Awhile.
We sat outside awhile.
Tom and Jerry spent a while (as in a few minutes) ice skating in the newly frozen kitchen.
That's one of my favorite episodes ever. Not my absolute favorite, mind you. THAT would be when Tom sings, "Is you is or is you ain't my baby?"
Anyhoo, the only time the awhile/a while issue really needs to be confusing is when you use the word "for" and make it into a prepositional phrase.
We sat outside for a while.
In that case, "for" is a preposition, and "while" is its object. The tricksy part is that the entire prepositional phrase acts as an adverb answering the question "How long?"
Make sense? Think about it awhile, and you'll get it. And if you don't, hire an editor who knows the difference when you're ready.
Let's do something fun to finish off the day. In the comments, tell me what YOUR favorite episode of Tom and Jerry is.
cmdrfire for the use of the photo.