Don't waste your time
A flood of comments has come in from readers, and all three asked me to produce a post on things not worth bothering about in editing. Without any pretension of being comprehensive, I offer a start.
Things not worth bothering about
About/some. Some editors heartily dislike some in the sense of approximately. Not worth staying up nights fretting over.
Attorney/lawyer. Functionally interchangeable.
Like/such as. The strictest view is that like must compare one thing or person to another and that such as must introduce an example or set of examples. If you want to maintain a gossamer distinction, as Bill Walsh prefers, be my guest; but I’m not going to wear out my wrists switching one for the other.
None with plural. Don't labor to switch none to a singular verb. None can mean not one or not any. Use singular verbs or plural verbs as context dictates: None of the candlesticks is broken; none of the candlesticks have been polished.
Over/more than. If you’re not a journalist, you’re probably surprised to learn that over is limited to spatial relationships and must not be used to indicate a greater quantity. And since you’re not a journalist, you can continue to use the word without regard to false distinctions.
Split infinitive. A hoary shibboleth. If your English teacher warned you off this, she was wrong. If your first editor forbade this, he was wrong. If you own a book that prohibits this, get rid of it.
Things worth bothering about
Auxiliary/adverb/verb. It’s mainly journalists who insist on marring the idiomatic pattern of the language. Write has always been so, not always has been so. If the writer insists on the latter, change it anyhow.
Comprise/compose. A set of encyclopedias comprises its volumes. An alphabet is composed of letters. Is comprised of is always wrong.
Imply/infer. They mean opposite things. Hold fast to the distinction.
Things I’m on the fence about
Beg the question. It’s a formal term in logic, for making a circular argument, not an equivalent of prompts the question. But it very seldom appears in its sense as a term of logic, and I fear that it is going to prevail in the latter sense.
Careen/career. I’m still insisting on career for moving recklessly at high speed and careen for tipping onto the side, but I can feel my resolve weakening.
Everyone/their. The Brits are probably right to shrug at using the plural pronoun in this epicene sense, but there is such hard-core resistance among American editors that I shrink from allowing it.
But wait — there’s more
I’ll add to this as new items bob to the surface, or as you, dear readers, suggest them.