The unbearable likeness of 'like'


The word “like” may not look dangerous. But if you use it in ways offensive to certain sticklers, it’s guaranteed some readers will look down their nose at you.

No, I’m not talking about the verbal tic of saying, “like, you know, like, whatever.” I’m talking about far more common, far more respectable uses, like the one I use in this sentence or the one in the famous old ad “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.”

“‘Like’ has long been widely used by the illiterate; lately it has been taken up by the knowing and the well-informed who find it catchy, or liberating, and who use it as though they were slumming.”

Ouch. These rather harsh words from “Elements of Style” authors William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White were published first in 1959 in reference to “conjunctive like” — that is, using “like” as a conjunction. Here's what you need to know.

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