Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt
“In your recent article, ‘Who do you think you are?’ you state, ‘Additionally, authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, and books like the King James Bible often utilized that to refer to a person.’ Because you were referring to specific people and a specific book, shouldn’t you have used the words ‘such as’ instead of ‘like’ in your sentence?” –Becky, Carmel
Becky, you’re absolutely right! You out-grammared the Grammar Guy. Thanks for keeping me honest. Here’s the rule: “Such as” indicates inclusion, while “like” suggests comparison. Take this example: Curtis has visited states such as Rhode Island, Idaho and North Dakota. The “such as” in this sentence indicates Rhode Island, Idaho and North Dakota are included in the states Curtis has visited. In case you’re wondering, all three states do, in fact, exist.
How about this: Curtis enjoys limited-edition treats like the McRib. The “like” in this sentence suggests there are other, comparable limited edition treats Curtis enjoys in addition to the McRib. Take, for example, the pumpkin spice latte or Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. Why can’t we have these things year-round? Although I realize their scarcity adds to their allure, these items are the closest thing to perfection you can get for less than four bucks.
Here’s the McRub: Not everyone agrees. Although I prefer clear-cut answers, I’m not finding many in the nuanced English grammar universe. Some linguists think “such as” sounds too formal to our casual eardrums. In our rapidly devolving spelling and grammar multiverse in which we find ourselves, I tip my cap to those whose prose is elegant and purposeful.
If your intentions are to use grammar to be snooty, then I object (like when Starbucks changes their seasonal menu from pumpkin to peppermint). On the other hand, if you’ve got it, flaunt it (like if you ingeniously chose to save a pack of Reese’s eggs in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for six months, you deserve to enjoy them in January).
Although this issue seems to involve a minor, hair-splitting distinction, you’ve got to love good grammar; after all, it’s only available in limited quantities.