The word “includes” is too often used where just “are” would be better. We have brought up the use of “includes” before:
“Includes” or “including” implies that part of a list is being given, not necessarily the whole list. Saying “The group includes Apple, IBM, and Motorola” leaves open the possibility that it might also include Texaco and Happy Farmer Markets, Inc. If you want to say that Apple, IBM, and Motorola are the only members of the group, say “The group is made up of Apple, IBM, and Motorola.”
“Include,” according to old Noah Webster, means “To comprise; to comprehend; to contain.” Webster gives an example that is worth a look:
The history of England necessarily includes a portion of that of France.
Notice that what follows “includes” is not everything that is included. The history of England also necessarily includes the reign of Alfred the Great and the South Sea Bubble, but we have not mentioned these things. We are merely saying that we are going to have to talk about France as well as England, because the two countries kept spilling into each other.
Many writers automatically substitute “includes” for “are” or similarly simple words. Here is a paragraph from the Web site of a certain West Virginia conservatory, in which the writer has somehow managed to stick some form of “include” into all three sentences:
The Agriculturally Important plant category includes those that are important to most people usually because we eat them or use their products in some way. Examples include cashew, chocolate, banana, papaya, sugarcane, and coffee. Another useful plant includes the carnauba wax palm.
Let’s take each of those sentences individually. First:
The Agriculturally Important plant category includes those that are important to most people usually because we eat them or use their products in some way.
This is not a bad use of the word “includes.” The sentence gets a bit murky toward the end, and the Editor might revise it this way:
The “Agriculturally Important” plant category includes any plants that are important to people because we eat them or use their products in some way.
The Editor frankly can’t imagine any other reasons for a plant’s being “agriculturally important,” so he got rid of the “usually.” Now the next sentence:
Examples include cashew, chocolate, banana, papaya, sugarcane, and coffee.
Again, not an incorrect use of “include,” but it would be better to use a colon to avoid slipping into bureaucratic language:
Some examples: cashew, chocolate, banana, papaya, sugarcane, and coffee.
Now the third:
Another useful plant includes the carnauba wax palm.
This is so silly and wrong that, if you cannot see why it is silly and wrong, the Editor will not be able to explain it to you. Rewriting it is simple:
Another useful plant is the carnauba wax palm.