The key to revising your work for grammar (both word choice and wording) and mechanics (small but important matters such as punctuation) is to listen to your work anew. The best writers adopt an objective “listening ear,” learning to detect their problems of grammar and mechanics both intuitively and methodically, pretending they’re encountering the work for the first time no matter how many times they’ve re-read it.
As you develop this practice, you can count on two things.
- We tend to repeat the same errors over and over in our writing.
- Other writers make the same errors we do.
If we have one comma error in an essay, we’re likely to have others; if we have a particular usage problem such as the distinction between “affect” and “effect,” we can be sure other writers have it too. By studying the most common errors and revising accordingly, we’re likely to improve our work substantially. And when we make particularly common errors in our writing (such as confusing “it’s” with “its”), our audience is justified in viewing us as lazy because such errors are easy to reason through and correct.