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"Like" Versus "Such As"

Are you like Dracula? Do you like movies such as Twilight?

By
Geoff Pope, Writing for
4-minute read
Episode #242

 

What Punctuation Should You Use with “Such As”?

There is one more issue regarding “such as” that needs to be addressed. Many people incorrectly include a comma or a colon when using “such as.”

Don’t use a comma or a colon in the following situations:

Instrumental music, such as [no comma] classical and jazz, helps Jessica draw better.

The clippings in Kristen’s Funny Writing box include topics such as [no colon] dangling participles, spoonerisms, and eggcorns.

When Do You Use a Comma with “Such As”?

Now you might be wondering why a comma is included before “such as” in that first example but not in the second. It’s because in the first sentence the “such as” phrase is part of a nonrestrictive (nonessential) clause, so a comma is needed; in other words, you can take out the such as phrase, and the sentence will still make sense.

Instrumental music, such as classical and jazz, helps Jessica draw better.

Instrumental music helps Jessica draw better.

In contrast, because the such as phrase in the second example sentence is restrictive (essential), a comma doesn’t go there; in other words, “The clippings in Kristen’s Funny Writing box include topics” needs the additional “such as” phrase to complete the meaning of the sentence.

For further clarification, let’s go back to an earlier example: “Jill would love to travel to several European cities” is a main clause (it conveys a complete thought), and the phrase “such as London, Florence, and Athens” gives additional but nonessential information; therefore—according to many style guides and writers’ handbooks— a comma is needed before “such as.” Many writers, however, intentionally break that usage rule to avoid bumpy comma-crowding.

So, again, you can see that rulings are mixed in this closely contested match between “like” and “such as.”

Geoff Pope

This podcast was written by Geoff Pope, who teaches English at City University of Seattle and can be found online at www.geoffpope.com. The article was edited and read in the podcast by Mignon Fogarty, author of the New York Times bestseller Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

References

1. O’Connor, P. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003, p. 103

2-3. Burchfield, R. W., ed. The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Third edition. New York: Oxford, 1996, p. 750.

4. Stafford, P. Your Skin: The Largest Organ of the Human Body. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/27528/your_skin_the_largest_organ_of_the.html?cat=70 (accessed on August 23, 2010).
 

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About the Author

Geoff Pope, Writing for Grammar Girl

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