Better Writing: When to Use “Like” vs. “Such As”

Have you ever wondered about the distinction between “like” or “such as” in your writing? Here are two phrases to consider:

. . . the answers that so-called geniuses like / such as Newton seem to embody.

. . . centuries of innovations like / such as the airplane and the space shuttle have resulted.

In these examples, “such as” is preferred over “like” because the word “like” implies comparison while “such as” implies inclusion. That means being like something doesn’t include the thing itself.

In the first phrase, Newton is intended to be included as a so-called genius, so “such as” is the correct choice. In the second phrase, the airplane and space shuttle are examples of innovations meant to be included within this context. In contrast, the sentence “he’s like a fish swimming upstream” provides a clear comparison.

Your challenge: When you’re about to write “like,” ask this question: Would I include this point in a list or exclude it? The answer becomes your clue to select either “like” (exclude) or “such as” (include).

Today’s Word Tripper:

Adopt, adapt “Adopt” means to take as one’s own as in someone else’s child, to choose something such as a lifestyle, or to formally accept something such as a position or principle. “Adapt” means to adjust to various conditions. “When you adopt a young girl, be sure to make it easy for her to adapt to your living environment.”

Barbara McNichol, Word TrippersBarbara McNichol works with business professionals to provide expert editing of nonfiction books and help them improve their writing skills. Over the past 22 years, she has placed more than 320 books on her editing “trophy shelf.”

On a crusade to boost the quality of business writing, she offers a monthly ezine Add Power to Your Pen as well as a WordShop on Business Writing Essentials and her word choice guide Word Trippers: Your Ultimate Source for Choosing the Perfect Word When It Really Matters.


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27 thoughts on “Better Writing: When to Use “Like” vs. “Such As””

  1. This was a great topic to blog about. I will never understand the difference between “effect” and “affect”. And I find most people never use the word “too”. Am I bad if I correct them? Thanks for the article.

  2. I love tips like this because it helps me better understand what words are best for each situation. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Great information thank you! My pet peeve is when people type “Your Welcome” when it should be “You’re Welcome”. I also live in the west where my cute hubby has the worst time with the proper use of saw and seen! Good luck ladies!

  4. This was a great article. I love the simplistic way the difference between the 2 words is explained. Thanks for sharing and for sharing the resources.

  5. I have observed writing from high-level executives that could benefit from gems such as this! But seriously, I take pride in my writing skills; however it is always nice to receive a refresher course.

  6. Jean Weaver CAP-OM

    I struggle with the words “affect” and “effect.” When I’m proofreading a document that contains either of these words, I stop and pull out my grammar manuals to ensure the correct word is used. The words “that” and “which” can also be troublesome for me. I cringe every time I see others use the word “myself” used in a sentence such as “Please direct any inquiries to myself.”

    1. You can actually “Google” these questions. I’ll often type questions such as, “When do I use a comma versus a semi-colon.” There is a ton of information out there. Best of luck to you!

  7. Great article and the comments are very helpful. I am native German and don´t always even recognize the difference. So what is the rule to use “as well,” “also,” or “too”?

  8. Finally, got to read this today! excellent tips! I also downloaded the free e-book! My CEO and I were just talking about “affect” and “effect”. Good timing!

  9. Katherine Margard

    Thanks very much for the explanation of the difference between “such as” and “like.” This was new to me, so I really appreciate knowing the correct use for each.

    One of my pet peeves in writing is when people misuse the words “me” and “I.” For example: My friend invited John and I to go to lunch. If you take out the words “John and” you are left with: “My friend invited I to lunch.” Obviously that’s wrong. It should be: My friend invited John and me to go to lunch.

    Or: John and me were asked to attend the meeting. Again, it’s wrong, because if you take out the “John and”, then you’re left with “Me were (was) asked to attend the meeting.” It should be: I was asked to attend the meeting.

  10. I teach a freshman class and every time I grade papers, I see the students tripping over the usual suspects – my favorite, and most often seen, are the same as the internet’s … there, their and they’re. I see students making the wrong choice everytime. I have a standard response – “Proofreading is more important than just using spellcheck because the wrong word can be spelled correctly.”

  11. My side hustle is working with Indie Authors providing proofreading, first editing as well as administrative support functions. It amazes me how many of them mix up words: except-accept, their-they’re, seen-saw are ones that come immediately to mind (and mostly as they were in a document I am currently editing). I’ll be subscribing to the e-zine!
    Thanks for the great article!

  12. Barbara Corley

    What a great article! This is a common “word tripper” for me and your explanation is great! Now I have a better grasp of how to use each correctly. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m heading to your website now to learn more!!

  13. I could not agree more, “When you know how to write with precision and accuracy, your professional reputation builds and your career can soar.” The opposite happens if you speed through emails or documents before distribution! Precision and accuracy are two of the easiest ways to build your professional reputation. Always make sure to do a read through (or two), and make sure everything flows the way you want it to. When in doubt, rewrite!

  14. Katherine Morgan

    Love this! Good writing is something I am passionate about and strive towards each day. My personal crusade is the proper use of the apostrophe. I often get its/it’s mixed up. Thank you for sharing this. I am adding to my website favorites now!

  15. I haven’t struggled with “like” or “such as”. My most common word tripper is when to use the word “that”. More often than not, you don’t need to include it in a sentence. If you leave it out, it sounds fine.

  16. I’m always looking for help with my writing. I’m definitely purchasing and looking forward to helpful tips. Thanks Office Dynamics International for your
    #blog-a-thon and thank you Barbara McNichol for your book.

  17. Thanks for this article. I love it. People don’t care about grammar as they have in the past. Easy tricks to remember which word to use.

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