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Many English speakers use "like" and "such as" interchangeably. Either is acceptable to many grammarians and usage guides often refrain from making a firm ruling on this usage. 

"Doctor Coughlin dreads seeing patients like Mrs. Carbuncle." 
"I can't help laughing when I hear words such as "flabbergasted," "rutabaga," and "hornswoggle."

The difference between "such as" and "like" can be subtle and confusing. Writers and editors alike have chosen to break these rules time and again because "such as" sounds overly formal, clashing with the author's style and voice. "Basketball legends like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird . . ." has a smoother, more natural flow than "Basketball legends such as Michael Jordan and Larry Bird . . ." 

Still, if you want some guidelines to keep you on a safe path, remember: "like" implies COMPARISON, whereas "such as" implies INCLUSION. Use "like" when you want to express SIMILARITY:

"Celebrities like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie are used to being photographed." (Any celebrities on a par with them; not necessarily these two specific actors - just ones like them.)

Use "such as" when you are giving SPECIFIC EXAMPLES:

"Celebrities, such as George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, are used to being photographed." (Clooney and Jolie are named as specific examples, the emphasis is put particularly on them.)

H.W. Fowler states: "The choice is often governed by the meaning: if the sense required is 'resembling' then 'like' is preferable. And there is much to be said in favour of 'such as' when more than one example of a class is mentioned”. 

"Jill would love to travel to several European cities such as London, Florence, and Athens." (The "such as" tells us these are specific cities Jill wants to see.)
"Characters like Cinderella, Dracula, and Frankenstein continue to appear in movies and novels." (The "like" tells us characters that are comparable to those continue to appear.)

Sometimes, the sentence is okay either way. "Such as" is more common in academic writing. It is also found in fiction and news writing, but much less often. "Like" is straightforward, direct and commonly used to emulate the spoken language. When in doubt, go with the one that looks, sounds, and feels right. Writing is an art, not a science.


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