Copy Editor’s Corner | Like vs. As

Every once in a while, copy editors must decide whether to make a sentence grammatically correct or to let it slide for the sake of readability.

When like is used where as should be, a copy editor may decide to leave it. When we do stick to our guns and obey our style bibles, we go by the following guidelines.

Like can be used to compare things —“My daughter looks like me,” in which case it functions as a preposition followed by a noun or pronoun in the objective case.

When a verb is used—or implied—however, the conjunction as if or as should be used instead of like: “You’re acting as if you’ve done something wrong,” or “Stephanie sings around the house, just as her mother always did.” Notice that as is generally followed by a clause.

The problem with using like instead of such as in “You can find great deals at stores like Target and Kmart” is that it seems to exclude Target and Kmart and only include stores like them. Such as is more direct: “The Hall of Fame inducts historically significant baseball players such as Hank Aaron and Rod Carew.” Those men have indeed been inducted into the Hall of Fame, not just players like them.

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