I always say that if you want to get the best results with your writing, you should always proofread before publishing.
But proofreading is as good as your grammar skills. Even if you are using tools like Grammarly or Ginger, your grammar needs to be good enough to sift through the recommended edits.
It may seem like a small thing, but proper punctuation can make or break a sentence. And knowing little things like the usage of a comma before “such as” cumulatively improves your skills.
Small things like these are often overlooked by people who are new to writing, but understanding such basic principles can help you write better content.
So, can or should we use a comma before “such as”?
Read on to find out.
What Does “Such As” Mean?
We can define or use the phrase “such as” in two ways:
a. “Such as” is a phrase used to usher in an example or group of examples
- Songs such as Gone Tomorrow make me cry every time.
- Politicians, such as our mayor, can be divisive.
- MMA athletes such as Israel and Khabib back up their words in the ring.
b. “Such as” can be used to introduce something “of the kind specified”
- In a scenario such as the one we find ourselves in, protocol X has to be activated.
- Statements such as the one you’ve just uttered lead to divisions in our club.
Although “such as” has two definitions, they are fundamentally the same, but this also means that it has numerous synonyms. This means that the way one uses this phrase affects the meaning of the sentence.
Can I Use a Comma Before “Such As”?
Yes and no. Yes, you can insert a comma before the phrase, “such as,” if it is in a nonrestrictive clause; and no, you can’t have a comma before “such as,” if it’s part of a restrictive clause.
The dictionary definition of a restrictive clause (also called a defining clause) is, “a clause that restricts or defines the meaning of a noun or noun phrase and provides necessary information about the noun in the sentence.”
These clauses lose meaning once the words that follow “such as” have been removed.
On the other hand, nonrestrictive phrases “add additional information to a sentence” and still work even after the phrase, “such as” has been removed.
If you can differentiate between the two clauses, then it will become easier for you to decide whether to use a comma before “such as.”
Take a look at the two scenarios below:
When to use a comma before “such as”
New York has a lot of tourist attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty.
The sentence above is a nonrestrictive clause, meaning that if we omit everything after the comma, it will still make sense.
The sentence, “New York has a lot of tourist attractions,” still holds. The other part was just an example of one of the numerous examples of the first.
When NOT to use a comma before “such as”
Buildings such as the Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead were built in the 17th century.
In this case, if we remove “such as the Lent-Riker-Smith Homestead,” we’re going to have “Buildings were built in the 17th century.”
You can see that without the omitted part, the sentence no longer makes sense. You can see that the above example is a restrictive clause and no comma is needed before “such as.”
More Examples of “Such As” in a Sentence
- Comedians, such as Bill Burr, know how to make sensitive issues sound funny.
- Girls such as Jessie are not what you need if you want to build a team.
- Pets such as dogs love to please humans.
- The company only gives priority to an absence that is backed by law, such as maternity leave.
- He dreams of playing in a top soccer league, such as the Premier League.
- These boys love to give us top-tier banter, such as the jokes they had yesterday.
- Animals such as crocodiles are coldblooded.
- Colorful clothes, such as these, look good on you.
- I would like to go on vacation to a country such as the Maldives.
- In this story, there were many round characters, such as Garfield and Martins.
- Countries such as the US take human rights seriously (sometimes).
- Many politicians, such as Boswell, Kennedy, Webster, Foster, and Johnson, have excellent people skills.
Can We Use Semicolons Before “Such As”?
You cannot. I mean, you can, but you shouldn’t if you don’t want to land in grammar jail. Semicolons cannot be used like commas because they are completely different,
Commas are often used to reflect a pause or separate words/phrases in a list. On the other hand, semicolons often connect two sentences or independent clauses that have some sort of relationship.
Most of the time, commas are more necessary than semicolons, and the latter can be omitted if the writer feels the need.
John and Rebecca are close friends; they go everywhere together.
In the example that I have given, I could omit the semicolon and replace it with either a comma or a period.
I did not do that because the semicolon shows a closer relationship between the clauses and removes any ambiguity from the sentence.
As I said, you could use a semicolon with such as but without breaking a few rules. The only way I see someone using a semicolon is if they place “such as” after a word or phrase that follows the semicolon.
Otherwise, there will be an odd-looking splice somewhere.
A sentence that is introduced by “such as” is rare, so I doubt you’re going to find a way to connect sentences and independent clauses with a semicolon and “such as.”
5 Synonyms for “Such As”
Here are some of the synonyms or related words for “such as”:
- For example/e.g.: in most cases, “for example” can replace “such as.” This adverbial phrase is even better because you can also use it at the beginning of a sentence.
If the formality allows for abbreviations, “e.g.” (which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “exempli gratia”) meaning “for example.” can be used instead of both “such as” and “for example.”
- For instance: This adverbial phrase is used the same as “such as.” “For instance” can also be used at the beginning of a sentence. However, it is somewhat less formal than both “such as” and “for example.”
- Including: This synonym is as formal as “such as” and is often used to introduce a list.
- Like: it is not advisable to use “Like” in a formal context. Rather, use it in a more casual situation. Although “like” is often used as a synonym for “such as” in conversational English, it seems unprofessional in serious/formal writing.
- Namely: This one is more formal than most. In fact, it’s better to use it in formal writing than in casual writing because it seems too tight. So, it’s a popular synonym for “such as” in formal speeches and texts (especially in academic writing).
How often do you use commas in your writing? Are they really necessary, or should you get rid of them altogether?
Yes and no. You have to look at the context.
Commas are essential punctuation marks that separate items within a sentence. They also serve as a way to show where a speaker pauses. Although commas are generally considered optional, they are unexpendable in some sentences because they add clarity and readability.
One of those scenarios is when “such as” is used in a nonrestrictive sentence. You need to have a comma before “such as” to show that the sentence can still make sense without it.
So, the answer to this blog’s title is yes, you can and should use a comma before “such as” if the clause is nonrestrictive.