Restrictive and Unrestrictive Use of “Such As”

By Mark Nichol

The phrase “such as” comes in handy for referring to specifics, but whether it begins a longer phrase framed by a pair of commas depends on whether that longer phrase is essential to the sentence or is provided as additional but nonessential information. The following sentences demonstrate erroneous use or omission of punctuation with the phrase; discussion and revision indicate correct usage.

1. In circumstances, such as these, are our strengths and weaknesses revealed.

A pair of commas around “such as these” presumes that the phrase is optional, but “In circumstances are our strengths and weaknesses revealed,” though a valid statement, misses the point of the sentence, which is intended to relate the sentiment to a particular set of circumstances, so the phrase is essential and should not be set off: “In circumstances such as these are our strengths and weaknesses revealed.”

2. The use of the technology allows companies, such as World Wide Wickets, to transfer funds faster, cheaper, and in a trackable mechanism.

Out of context, it may not be clear whether the parenthesis is necessary, but when one accepts the assumption that the company has already been mentioned, the phrase seems oddly intrusive when treated as an interjection, while its integral placement in the statement is natural: “The use of the technology allows companies such as World Wide Wickets to transfer funds faster, cheaper, and in a trackable mechanism.”

3. Specific employee information, such as Social Security numbers and I-9 forms for employment eligibility must be transferred in accordance with law.

The examples given in this sentence are helpful but not essential, so the phrase beginning with “such as” and ending before the verb phrase “must be transferred” should be treated parenthetically. This sentence starts off correctly but neglects to close off the parenthesis with a second comma: “Specific employee information, such as Social Security numbers and I-9 forms for employment eligibility, must be transferred in accordance with law.” (The sentence is also correct without internal punctuation.)

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1 Response to “Restrictive and Unrestrictive Use of “Such As””

  • Ken Devine

    Seems like a comma would be helpful:

    “In circumstances such as these, are our strengths and weaknesses revealed.”

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