Like is associated with various uncouth usages — “They were, like, all over the place”; “I was, like, ‘Really?’” — common in speech but easily avoided (except for comic effect) in writing, but many people are unaware that another widespread usage is considered improper in formal writing.
As a preposition meaning “similar to,” like is associated with nouns (“She entered the room like an empress”) and pronouns (“I don’t know anyone like him”). However, when the word connects one clause (a segment of a sentence that includes a subject and a verb) to another, it impersonates a conjunction: “He started dancing like his pants were on fire”; “I arranged the furniture like it had appeared before.”
Note, though, that this usage, though ubiquitous in conversation and in informal writing, is not considered acceptable in formal writing; like should be replaced, respectively, by “as if” (He started dancing as if his pants were on fire”) or as: (“I arranged the furniture as it had appeared before”). Replacing as with “the way” is also acceptable: “I arranged the furniture the way it had appeared before.”
(But beware of hypercorrection or over correcting)
Read the rest of “Like” Serves Nouns and Pronouns, Not Verbs.
And while writing about writing, let me remind you again about the free online course in college level writing from Duke University, Composition I: Achieving Expertise (hastag #dcmooc). I decided to take the course myself to see how it works and whether to keep recommending it. So far, I am very encouraged. There are many ESOL writers in the course and the atmosphere is very welcoming.
Even if you are not working toward university in an English speaking country, this course is good writing practice. Don't worry about being able to finish the course either: take it for the practice.
In the meantime, I'll be blogging about my own experience in the course at Computers Writing Language. Here is my first #dcmooc post, also our first writing activity. Not all related posts will be course activities or assignments: some will be my reflections on the course and teaching/learning writing online.