Thursday, January 8, 2009

The "like" debate continues

Today's SAT Question of the Day brings up a topic that has been bothering the GTOTD:

Digital technology, like every marketer knows, it is synonymous with speed, precision, and the future.

A. technology, like every marketer knows, it is
B. technology, similar to what every marketer knows as
C. technology, as every marketer knows, is
D. technology is what every marketer knows as
E. technology that every marketer knows is

On Sunday, one of the GTOTD's patron saints, Don K. Ferguson of the News Sentinel (above right), wrote the following in his Grammar Gremlins column:
Make 'actually' add to sentence
Are you one of those who use the word "actually" like it is used in the following sentence?
Several others were in the race, but no one actually knows how many.
Many use "actually" like this, where it adds little to the sentence. Although it often is unnecessary, it can be useful at times, as in pointing up a contrast.
Example: Those large dogs look ferocious, but actually they are quite gentle.
The most common use of "actually" is to add strength to a statement that might seem surprising. Example: She actually invited him to the party.
Handbooks say that, while "actually" can be omitted, including it often improves the rhythm of a sentence.
The GTOTD e-mailed Mr. Ferguson and asked about his use of "like" in the first sentence.
Gentleman that he is, Mr. Ferguson offered the following very nice reply:

Thanks for your note. Here is what one of my handbooks says on the point you raise: "Like ... meaning 'as, in the same way as' ... has been used for nearly 500 years and by many distinguished literary and intellectual figures. Since the mid-19th century there have been objections, often vehement, to these uses. Nevertheless, such uses are almost universal today" in informal speech and writing.
That said, however, I will say here that perhaps I should have been a bit more formal and used "as."

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