Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sequence with "like"

Just came across a minor edit and thought I'd pass it on. Again, it's all about sequence. I'm beginning to think everything is about sequence. Anyway, here's the original sentence or the opening clause, anyway:

You are not a sports fan, like me.....

Now is "me" a sports fan or not? It's not clear, is it?

But proper placement of that "like me" will make the meaning clear.

First, "like me" here is a prepositional phrase, which, like participial phrases, can be moved around to all sorts of places in the sentence. Both prepositional phrases and participial phrases are usually (not always) adjectival, modifying a noun, so they "sound" right next to almost any noun. But they actually only correctly modify one noun in the sentence, and for clarity, that's where you should place the modifying phrase.

Here, what is "like me"? YOU are, right? At least that's what the further context (in the rest of the paragraph) suggests-- you are like me in that you are not a sports fan.

You are, like me, not a sports fan....

Do you like that better than--

You, like me, are not a sports fan....

See the distinction there (not in meaning as syntax, I think-- they both mean you and I aren't sports fans). "If you are, like me" has the modifying phrase after the predicate, and so in a way it modifies not a single word but the whole clause there. That isn't wrong, exactly, and in fact, we do it all the time with adverbs: In "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," the whole admission is "frank", not just the very-- I don't give frankly.

But I think in this case, we are setting up a comparison between you and me, two people, two pronouns, and so the prepositional phrase might be best right after the "you." Then what follows "like me" is the aspect we share, the way in which you are like me. So I am going with:

You, like me, are not a sports fan....

And in that case "like me" is clearly interruptive and so set off with commas, and we can avoid the conundrum of whether "like me" in the alternative should be set off. Let me show you the options:
You are, like me, not a sports fan.... (that is, the clause is, "You are not a sports fan" and the "like me" is an interruptive -- appositive-- as above.)
You are like me, not a sports fan.... (here the clause is "You are like me" and the "like me" is actually a predicate adjective-- what are you? Like me.)
I think that probably this will depend on which aspect you are going to emphasize or develop. If you're going to talk more about how you and I are alike, go with "you, like me". If you want to talk more about "you", I guess go with "you are, like me, not a sports fan...."

Then again, there's:

Like me, you are not a sports fan....

That also clearly has the "like me" modifying "you," as they're adjacent.

Oh, and what if "me" really is a sports fan? I think then I'd make that clear not like this:
You are not a sports fan, like me.....

"Me" is an object, and "like" then becomes a conjunction. (Don't ask-- I could explain but I'm tired." A conjunction conjoins clauses, and "like" shouldn't be a conjunction (I mean, that's a misuse)-- the correct conjunction for similarity is "as". So that should be:
You are not a sports fan, as I am.

That way "I" goes with the positive (I am) not the negative (are not).

Ugly sentence, isn't it? Well, the way to fix that isn't to make it unclear and/or ungrammatical, but to rewrite it to reflect what you're emphasizing-- you or me? "I am a sports fan. I make no apologies for that. But you, sir, are not a sports fan, and so you can spend your Sundays on more productive activities."
"You are not a sports fan. That's all right, even though I am. I paint my face blue every Sunday the Colts are playing, and go into a depression every time they lose. (Not that they've been losing at all this season.)"

You don't have to put it all in one sentence. In fact, when you open the thought up, you might create something more fun than that single sentence summary.

Again, know what you mean, and make the sentence(s) say that. Don't make the reader guess.



Jami Gold said...

Theresa (Yes, I know that Alicia wrote this post, but I'm directing my comment to Theresa :) ),

I think you should consider adding a new tag header:
Posts where Alicia gives us headaches (in a good way)

I think I followed most of that, you are thoroughly corrupting me... :)
Jami G.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

What's wrong with: You are not a sports fan, UNlike me?

Well, don't use the caps. I stuck 'em there 'cause you can't hear the emphasis I would have used if we were speaking.

Edittorrent said...

Susan, which does that mean? Double negatives (not/un) always confuse me. Would it work better to have:
I am a sports fan, unlike you? That's at least only a single negative.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Well, your example was "You are not a sports fan. I am," so yeah, I guess I'm doing the double negative. Hadn't thought it in that light because the two negatives to me seem to be very different and not so closely related.

Maybe we should chuck the whole thing and rewrite the scene!

Edittorrent said...

Ah, yes, the old do-over. Where would we be without it?

Jami, I've always wanted to do a sidebar label for rants, so why not one for headaches? ;)


Jami Gold said...


I agree! :) I mean, really, what is the message here? I'm a sports fan, and you're not. Ummm...okay, what about it? Now that would mean something if the person was really trying to say: I'm a sports fan, and you're not, so I'm sure you won't mind trading shifts with me so I can get Super Bowl Sunday off, right? :) Otherwise, what point is the person trying to make?

Jami G.

Jami Gold said...


Those both sound like good ideas. :)

Jami G.

Riley Murphy said...

Okay, this is what I’d do. I'd blind my character and cause him to become irrevocably deaf, in order NOT to have to decide whether he was a sports fan like me - given the criteria listed. (They’re not doing braille football are they?) Headache? This is bug’s bunny - anvil to the cranium - worthy, type stuff!

Alicia, Alicia...Alicia! You’re killing me!

JG, you got all that, right? Send me the crib notes later, okay?

Murphy :D

Asea said...

You are like me, not a sports fan....
This sentence has a much different feel from the other two variants. It sets up a dichotomy between OUR group and those sports fans. It's almost antagonistic in its us/them split.

Whereas You are, like me, not a sports fan.... and You, like me, are not a sports fan.... are primarily about you and me - mostly you, with myself as an aside. Totally different association and emphasis.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Theresa, I think if we didn't have do-overs, there'd be no need for revisions. And then writing wouldn't be as much of a craft -- and would lose a lot of its fun and magic.

Unknown said...

@Murphy! Braille football? LOL!

Leona said...

Jami? Those aforementioned crib notes? I'll take a copy! LOL

I'm the one with the fever. I'm sure Jami gave it to me with all her feverish corrections from before :) So now I'm the one seeing things funny. Maybe we should have a disclaimer or warning sigh on Alicia's rants: Do not read if you are a) sick with fever or b) don't want to learn.

That way we know to wait and read them when we can give it our full, undivided attention, right:)

Murphy, I have to agree with Babs. Braille football? lmao

I am seriously going to challenge my second Eng comp class so I can take literature instead!!! After this blog, who needs another class?

Dave Shaw said...

Are you all saying that you, unlike me, find Alicia's post confusing?


Jami Gold said...


LOL! Well done! :)

Jami G.
(Personally, I know I have to concentrate on all those terms like "predicate adjective" before I understand all the details. I get there eventually...it just takes 'parsing power'. :) )

Edittorrent said...

Predicate adjective-- it's an adjective that describes the subject, but follows the predicate, in the position of the object:

Judy is funny.

"Funny" is the predicate adjective. You can only have them with certain predicate (verbs), like "is" and "smells" or "looks" (as in "He looks really good in blue").

There's also a "predicate nominative," which is a noun used with those same types of verbs which just names or describes the subject--

Cesare is a cad and a scoundrel.

You don't need to know these terms-- you do all this just fine already!


Jami Gold said...


Yeah... What you said! :)

We might not need to know these terms to write, but we do if we want to fully understand your posts. That's not a complaint at all! I think it's great how much analysis we can do to our work to make sure it's the best we can make it. Besides, when I throw these terms around IRL, people look at me like I must be a "professional writer" to know stuff like that! LOL!

Jami G.