Editing Quick Hit: Like vs. Such as vs. Including

This is one of those times that spoken English has messed up written English, because casually, we do not care. But in writing, sometimes this one actually matters. (You’ll hope your lawyer understands this grammar rule.)

“Like” means “similar to but not including.”

“Such as” means “similar to AND including.”

“Including” means… including, or, as the dictionary likes to say “containing as part of the whole being considered” (that’s Google’s dictionary, btw). And works as a more flexible catch-all when you’re confused about whether you should be using “like” or “such as”

Let’s just assume the pomegranate is behind the pear back there, ok? Ok.

So putting this to work, an example: If you are picking out a fruit to eat and know you like apples but aren’t in the mood for one right now, you might say “Give me something like an apple” and I might hand you a pomegranate. (Because a pomegranate is similar to, but not, an apple)

If you are picking out a fruit later but now are more flexible on what you’d like, you might say, “I’d like a fruit such as an apple, orange or banana” and I might hand you any of the three or I might hand you a pear. (Because you want something similar to the things you listed, as well as the specific fruit you mentioned.)

If I’m offering you fruit from my selection and just want to list them off, I’d go with “I have a variety of fruits for you to enjoy, including an apple, banana, pear, orange and pomegranate.” If you wanted a grapefruit, I’d have to send you down to the grocery store to buy one yourself.

Got it?

Hungry now? Man, I want a strawberry after all that fruit.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Editing Quick Hit: Like vs. Such as vs. Including

  1. So, are such as and including interchangeable? I’m so confused on when to use which term.

    • Such as is a little more formal in usage, and including a little more general, but you can mostly use them interchangeably. “Such as” typically works when giving examples; “including” is for a list. Example: “Fruits, such as apples, oranges, and pinapples, are good to eat.” vs. “Fruits, including apples, oranges, and pineapples, are good to eat.” In the first, you are saying “these are examples of fruits”; in the second, you are saying, “fruits, among those of which are these three, but there are many more.” It’s a subtle difference and generally doesn’t matter much in usage, but just in case, that’s the diff.

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