What is like?
Like has multiple uses and meanings. Consider the following examples:
- Like, I´ve never seen this before
- And I was like, ´wow, you have got to be kidding´
- The users liked the flexibility the program offered
- Countries, like America, have a diverse social history
Many of these uses are novel and part of spoken language. Their prominence has increased within the last 30 years, but as with other elements of spoken language, they may present ambiguity and not be suitable for some written modes of communication.
Why should you avoid using like in academic writing?
Let´s consider what meaning the above 4 examples add to a sentence and then consider their appropriateness to academic writing:
- like, I´ve never seen this before = this use is as a discourse filler potentially used to emphasize an emotional reaction. As it is linked to emotion, it should be avoided in academic writing
- And I was like, ´wow, you have got to be kidding´ = This is a very novel use of like to report an event to another listener. It is different to said in that it is often followed by mimicking the emotional reaction in the speech. Again, as it is linked to emotion, it should be avoided
- The users liked the flexibility the program offered = This is like as a verb. Its meaning is clear enough so it can be used, although specific details would be preferable
- Countries, like America, have a diverse social history = This is like used as a preposition. It is more common in academic writing to use such as or similar to
How can you avoid using like?
If not used as a verb, change according to the rules above.