Yes, you can use 'like' to mean 'such as'

You can use “like” as a synonym of “such as” if you want to. Though, if my own editing work is any indication, writers haven’t gotten the memo.

In a recent two-week period, I edited about 25 articles that used “such as” before a list of examples. Only five used “like.”

“The restaurant serves elevated pub food and satisfying eats such as hand-tossed pizzas and specialty burgers.”

“Some studies suggest that eating chili peppers such as jalapenos can relax inflammation.”

“Wear protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts.”

“He became an illustrator for major magazines such as Life and National Geographic.”

“… to demonstrate qualities such as cooperation.”

None of these is wrong. But it’s a problem that the writers all seem to think they have no alternative.

A lot of grammar myths have easy-to-trace histories. This isn’t one of them. Yes, if you go back to the 1950s or so, you’ll find certain language cops telling people that “like” means “similar to.” And when something is similar to something else, they’re not one and the same. Thus, these people said, “chili peppers like jalapenos,” by definition, excludes jalapenos. It means only peppers similar to jalapenos and not jalapenos themselves. If that were true, you would be required to use “such as” anytime you wanted include jalapenos in the examples.

But it’s not true. Dictionaries define “like” as a synonym of “such as,” meaning you can use either one to set up a list of examples. I explain in-depth in my recent column.

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