Copy Cops: On the Case of “Like,” “As,” and “Such As”
Posted by Alison Dotson on Feb 19, 2013
Have you ever sat through a presentation or meeting and counted the number of times the speaker said um or like?
Like can be overused at times, but it does have its place in proper grammar. As with all grammar and style rules, though, once they are understood they can be broken — on a case-by-case basis. Breaking the occasional rule shouldn’t distract readers from your message, and it can give your content a friendlier, more customer-oriented tone.
Note that I said rules can be broken once they are understood. So once again Hanley Wood Marketing’s Copy Cops (#copycops) are on the case. Let’s get down to learning when like should be used and when as, as if, and such as should be used instead.
Like is a preposition (other prepositions include words like in, under, from, with, and between) and should be used with an object to compare nouns and pronouns:
Brad reports the news like a seasoned professional. (Here, the object is seasoned professional).
You’re acting like a baby! (Baby is the object.)
But there is no object in the following examples. (Note what replaces like in each; as and as if are both conjunctions.)
Thomas doesn’t exercise as he should.
Ann prepared for her review as if her job depended on it.
Beth sings in the shower, just as her mother always did.
Such As Deal
Then there’s the case of like vs. such as. Consider the following sentence.
Every year actors like Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington are honored with an Academy Award.
The problem with this construction is that like seems to exclude Bridges, Streep and Washington and only include actors like them — but they have indeed won Oscars.
Such as is a more inclusive phrase, but like would work if it appeared after their names, not before: …Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington and actors like them…
When in doubt, look it up! As a copy editor I use the dictionary and various style guides several times a day. Some rules are easier to memorize than others, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Using proper grammar most of the time inspires confidence in your customers, relaying the message that you really care about the quality of your message and content.
Alison Dotson is one of Hanley Wood Marketing’s “Copy Cops,” editors and proofreaders extraordinaire, who keep the world of marketing and corporate communications safe for clean, grammatical, spiffy content. You can catch their occasional tips on Twitter at @hwmarketing or follow the #copycops hash tag.
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