Koslow has written of women and their friendships and lives before, in books such as The Late, Lamented Molly Marx and Little Pink Slips. Her books are entertaining, "smart, raw, and achingly real," according to Publishers Weekly. Having had a number of wonderful roommates and long-running female friendships throughout my life in New York City, I can attest to Koslow's accuracy and unwillingness to take the easy way out, from a writer's point of view. She's real and refreshingly honest, if a bit up-to-the-minute with her characters' life situations.

 

Her latest title made me think about a rather finesse point of grammar and diction: the difference in meaning between "like" and "such as." Many stylists feel that properly speaking, "like" should only be used to compare one thing to another or a group of others, while "such as" is used to single out one from a group. As ever, an example makes this clearer.

 

Consider "Male writers, such as Hemingway, are less likely to write about female friendships in depth." "Such as" singles out Hemingway as one of a larger group, "male writers." He is one of the male writers, not like a male writer. In fact if you told Hemingway, while he was alive, that he was like a male writer, you could expect a punch in the nose.

 

Yet many other stylists note that this point is a persnickety point observed only by certain editors and copyeditors and that it really never was any kind of a rule. In popular vernacular, certainly no one is going to actually misunderstand and think that Hemingway is like a male writer but not actually a male writer.

 

Similar discussions go on about the words "since" and "because," but we'll leave that for another post.

 

What do you think is the difference between "since" and "because"? Do you think there is any difference between "like" and "such as"?

 

 

 

Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and is currently teaching English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services.

Comments
by WordloverSK on ‎08-11-2010 03:18 PM

Ellen,

 

I like your review, and choose the word "like " with care.

 

As for the title of my novel, let the rumpus among copyeditors and grammarians begin.

 

 

Thank you,

Sally Koslow

by Blogger Ellen_Scordato on ‎08-16-2010 11:59 AM

Sally,

Thank you! and thanks for your books. Spot on, as the Brits would say.

I'm not a perscriptivist and personally think those kinds of "distinctions" can be taken too far.

 

Precision is one thing, but language is shared. If no reasonable English speaker will misunderstand the meaning, and only a few readers (mainly hardcore old-school copyeditors) will know why one word was chosen over another, then I don't think observing such distinctions aids communication or clarity.

 

And of course, as has been discussed here before, idioms and common phrases such as "with friends like these!" are pretty much immune to any sort of persnickety "fixing"; they are units in the language, and perfectly common and clear to all. To phrase them otherwise is to invite confusion, rather than communicate.

 

In the end, I highly endorse this title -- and the book!

by disneyphish on ‎08-18-2010 04:24 PM

I had a professor who corrected my use of "since" in a paper I'd submitted. She circled that word and pencilled in "because" with a note about how "since" does not entail reason. "Since" is to be used when referring to the events that have taken place beyond a given moment. Ever since, I have caught myself, using "because" when I am giving a reason for something. I miss using you that way, "since". 

 

Onto "ironic"--the whole Alanis thing. Anyone want to comment on that?

 

Sarah

by Fricka on ‎08-21-2010 07:09 PM

disneyphish,

As an English teacher myself, I would not have marked your paper simply because you used the world since rather than because.

Perhaps my standards have slipped, but these days, I'm happy to read a paper that is not full of other, more glaring grammatical mistakes, like run on sentences, fragments, subject-verb agreement, and/or pronoun/antecedent agreement.

On a different note, your query about the Alanis Morrisette use of the word ironic in her song of the same title. I remember when I used to see that on the air, I would say to myself, " she doens't  really mean ironic in its usual form." I also used to know (or think I knew) the word she really should have used. However, my memory has gone blank on me(cursed middle-aged brain freeze!) and I can't at the moment recall what word I thought it was she should have used. DARN! Now I'm probably going to have to do research on you-tube and see if I can find that video again. Bet if I watch it, I will remember the word she should have used. Grrrrrrr.

by disneyphish on ‎09-10-2010 05:56 PM

Oh, I hope you post it if you do! I've always thought that there'd be a great word that would fit what she really meant, but I can't think of it. Thank you.

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