If you are constantly thinking about grammar as you write, there is a danger that you won't get anything written. While you're writing, the questions, 'What exactly am I trying to say?' and, 'What's going on?' are useful ones. If you're getting stuck and it doesn't sound right, perhaps you should ask yourself, 'Is there a subject, verb, object?' and, 'Which words are my signposts?' It may even be useful to ask, 'Am I completing, introducing, separating, enclosing or omitting?' However, for many people, some of these questions are best left for the stage of checking over for sense. (See Figure 1.1.)
As you get used to some of the ideas talked about in this book, you may begin to find yourself responding to warning signs. In Figure A.3, I have listed things that trigger a warning for me, both when I am writing and when I am proofreading. These are things that I know can often go wrong.
I've included this short list to encourage you to make your own. If you know you make the same mistakes over and over again, you need to try to find a way to avoid it or ensure that you pick it up in proofreading. There are further examples of frequent errors in Burt (2004) (see Bibliography).
Often, of course, the real problem is that the student has not had time to proofread the essay properly. Although it looks like one, it's not a grammar problem at all!