Like and As

Last month's column focused on why you shouldn't use as. This one focuses on instances that require as.

Winston tastes good, as a cigarette should.

That last example might not be familiar to those who aren't old enough to remember a time when cigarettes were advertised in the media. And some of you might not understand the grammatical reasoning of that statement. Why not use like, you ask? The opinions on that are evolving, but the old-school rule still prevails in most cases. Like is reserved for a direct comparison of two nouns or noun phrases:

I'm a lot like my dad.

Her floor plan is like Dan's.

Like you, I have no interest in reality TV.

It's like taking candy from a baby.

But once the phrase acquires its own verb, as is needed:

I fix my hair up just as Dolly Parton does.

He does a layup as Michael Jordan would.

He acts as though the rules don't apply to him.

But I consider this next consctruction just fine, especially in our trade books, because I think as would be misleading:

After reading this book, you'll be able to play basketball like a professional.

A purist might insist on After reading this book, you'll be able to play basketball as a professional suggests that agents will be signing you up to play on an NBA team. That's probably not the message the author wants to convey to readers.