Notes on Punctuation and Grammar

Update: The builder who sent the note that sparked this story sent along another that better explained his thoughts, and I admire him for doing so. It is just below. I want builders reading the story to understand that it isn’t about spelling, the central point is that we all have things that cause us to loose focus on available learning. In Dave’s case he pointed out my spelling and grammar is a distraction; It is no different than myself not learning from Chandler Titus because he didn’t acknowledge me. The point I want everyone to know is that aviation doesn’t afford the luxury of allowing any distraction, big, small, personal or public, from getting between you and what you need to know.-ww.


  William: I meant to compliment you on a daily offering that was not only insightful, but grammatically clean—positive reinforcement works better than criticism. I appreciate your quest for mechanical perfection, which results in excellence and progress. Keep writing. I learned something. Dave N475dg


The letter below showed up in the comments section of my story about making 2015 your year in aviation. It was not a private email, the sender was  saying it to all readers:


Dave G.

Congratulations! No grammatical errors, misspellings, or misuse of apostrophes. Seriously, this makes it easier for some of us to take seriously. Dave


To Dave and all the other people who don’t take what I write seriously because it has spelling and punctuation errors:


I began to read and write very young, before I was four. I started school more than a year early, and was always very bright. When I was a 10 years old and we were living in Thailand, it was a very safe place and I was out riding my bicycle many miles from home. On an empty country road I was hit by a driver in a car who left me for dead. Several people saw this, but there were strong spiritual, cultural and legal reasons why they did not offer any assistance.


I awoke in the ditch after something like an hour. I found my way home, under the illusion that several years had past. I was in the 5th field hospital on Sukumvit road for a week, beside soldiers fresh out of Vietnam. There was a long year of tests and nightmares, not a lot of fun for a kid.


The end result is that I have a particular type of brain injury, and I have never been able to spell nor see grammatical errors since, and I can only read at the same pace I can speak. In written text, even common words like ‘went’ look correctly spelled to me as booth ‘went’ and whent’ before spell check, my only ability to differentiate them was by pronouncing them at a snails pace. Looking at something I wrote at 4 am, I have no ability to tell if the spell check was on or off, and it doesn’t work well for me.


In conversation with me you would never suspect anything like this, but that is because conversation is 100% phonetic, and this is the pathway in my brain that gets all the work. In the last 42 years, the phonetic elements have been worked to the point that I have a phenomenal memory for spoken conversation, and I can retrieve quotes from books I read a decade ago, because when I read them, I did so slowly, pronouncing everything to make it phonetic instead of visual.  None of the last 3 trucks I have owned have had a radio. I don’t need it. driving down the road late at night, I can remember note for note any song I have ever heard a few times.


Being practical, I have a lot of things to share about airplane building, and the choices are to burden my wife with doing this for all the material I share, or not writing it.  If you like the direct honesty of the tone, I will tell you that it comes out at 4am, and if it is fed through the editing process, I am given a few hours to consider how some people will take it wrong, and invariably, it gets diluted or deleted, because when I think about our national obsession with criticizing the work of others or taking offense at things, I often never send things because when you are speaking of subjects like people you loved who’s life ended at 23, it is unpleasant have to consider people who critique it for bad grammar.


A bigger point, that directly relates to me sharing what I know about the serious subject of building your plane. I have pointed out many times, that a builder has a moral obligation to his passengers to gather proven information on how to build the best plane he can, from All sources, not just ones he finds pleasant. The very honest story about Chandler Titus below is directly written on this subject. If it has grammatical errors, I don’t want to hear about it.


 Although I have a lot to share, Some people are not going to take it seriously because it doesn’t meet his grammatical standards. This is nothing new to me. Last year, I directly told a guy, in person, not to do something, and 50 minutes later he tried it, and wrecked the plane. His friend offered the observation “If you had short hair, he would have listened, but he wanted to prove that he didn’t listen to people he perceived as hippies.”


Many people think that my contribution to what they might know about planes is somehow limited to how to bolt a particular engine together. In reality, I could teach any 12 year old how to torque rod bolts. Learning concepts like how it is your moral obligation to learn from people, even ones who are unpleasant, have long hair and don’t spell correctly, does far more to reduce your risk and that of your passengers than anything I am going to show you about manipulating wrenches.




Chandler Titus, 25 missions in a B-17 Ball turret, Pilot in the Berlin Airlift, worked at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for more than 50 years. Read the story to understand that very limited amounts of your potential knowledge will come in ‘nice’ packages.


ERAU – models of integrity #2


“Maybe half the stuff I know about planes comes from people I would never have chosen as a friend. I am fully aware there are many good reasons to dislike me. Do not set your goal on being friends with me, set it on learning everything I can teach you. That exchange in itself is a better basis for friendship than initially ‘liking’ someone. Trust me, on my worst day, I could run the White House protocol and etiquette department compared to Mr. Titus. I don’t know what he knew, but I am 50 times the people person he was. If I am not your kind of person, don’t let it stop you from learning what I have to share.”

13 Replies to “Notes on Punctuation and Grammar”

  1. I just have to comment: Dave’s quote itself is actually grammatically incorrect. He is missing a reference to the subject: “to take YOU or IT seriously”

    Keep up the good work, WW.

  2. William,

    Having spoken to you a number of times on the phone, watched you in your videos, read your posts and manuals, meet you in person and watched you teach others, I can’t understand the point of the dig that Dave threw at you. I care about the content of your material, not the presentation (I have no issue with the presentation either but you know what I mean). Anyone who would not listen to the advice, instruction or expert opinion of another because of hair length, grammar or other meaningless/pointless prejudice is quite simply a moron. I find your approach to disseminating information, both in writing and in person, to be engaging and instructive, who gives a $h!t how long your hair is or if you abused an apostrophe.

    Now, get off your long hair, bad spelling, old hippie butt and tell me something important, like when CC #33 is going to be!

  3. And all this time I thought your mind was just working faster than you can type.

  4. Could someone, or should that be somebody point me in the direction of Dave web site wear! I can read technical and fillysofical articles he has written. Creative people have a brain that runs ahead of there! fingers. Hope you have found a use for the ” entertainment tool ‘. Keep up the good work. Cheers

  5. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. I’ve never had trouble following your writings, and not once have I stopped to think,”Why did he write it that way?”. Maybe that’s because I have never read a sentence from you starting with,”I seen…”.

  7. William,

    A little over two years ago I decided that I was going to build a plane. I then started my search for which plane to build and after defining my mission and whittling away those that didn’t fit; I decided that the Zenith CH 650 B was the one.

    In January of 2013 I ordered the plans and, for whatever reason at the time, my attention went to which engine to use. As I did my research it quickly became apparent, if I chose an “aircraft” engine, that easily half the whole cost of the aircraft would be spent firewall forward! Plus I would have to come up with the full engine price in a short time frame. As I am sure you know, this can cause quite a dark cloud to hang over the whole project. Not a deal breaker but quite a steep mountain to climb for someone who is not made of money.

    During my research I had come across your website and began to frequent it more. I must admit that the initial draw for me was the idea of being able to have an engine at half the price of others and to be able to extend the cash outflow for it over and number of years.

    By the time of Sun-N-Fun 2013 I had some knowledge of the Corvair engine but was still not committed to using it. I went to Sun-N-Fun 2013 with two main objectives, first to get a better look at the CH 650 B (having chosen it I still wanted to see it and sit in it) and second to look at engines.

    I write all this to say that while at Sun-N-Fun I saw a lot of salesmen dressed nicely in their booths passing out their fliers. I saw you in your booth also, and with some observation picked you out as the proprietor of the establishment. I must admit, again, that your outward appearance, the long hair, blue jeans and tee shirt, was not the expected business presentation. I perused your displays but didn’t introduced myself.

    I left Sun-N-Fun absolutely sure of my choice in the Zenith and on the verge of being committed to using the Corvair. Getting home I continued to read your website and began to be impressed by two main things that I found there. First (and foremost), I noticed that those who had converted a Corvair for aircraft use showed it can have (if done correctly) an excellent expectation of reliability. Second, some of the people who are using the Corvair in aircraft are aviation professionals with impressive credentials. Two of those, who you have mentioned yourself and I have met personally (CC #28), are Kevin Purtee (a military pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 4 and has flown combat missions in Iraq) and Andrew Elliot (an MIT graduate and holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering). Surely if these have chosen the Corvair, with their experience and understanding of the need for a piece of equipment to be reliable and trustworthy, I should be able to use it for my plane also.
    I am glad that I didn’t let any type of stereotypical first impressions stop me from pursuing and learning about what will become the power plant on the front of my airplane.

    William, many in our society today don’t want to hear the truth. The truth doesn’t make them feel good about their bad choices or remove the responsibility for them. I have a saying that I tell others when they want to tell me something but don’t know how, “Tell me the truth. I can handle the truth, good or bad. What I can’t handle is someone lying to me.” So keep telling the truth, you have someone who appreciates it and is learning from it!

    Earnie Fontenot

    P.S. Sorry for the wordiness……

  8. In my not so humble opinion, the qualification is sincerity, experience, knowledge, and the ability/desire to teach, in that order. The rest is cake. Thanks for sharing – it will make any of us think before we criticize anyone about anything. Waste of time anyway….I got stuff to do. {;^)

  9. I have often taken comfort in the fact that the use of what is today considered a mis-spelling used to be considered a sign of intelligence and education. It was considered to be a demonstration of ones knowledge of alternate spellings to arrive at the same word, e.g. phiche, fiche, fish, phish, etc. I am always looking for the content that the writer is trying to communicate, and not worried about the framework around that content.

  10. William, Negative critisism is usually the result of ones self loathing. They internalize thier own faults and then lash out at any thing or any one that reminds them of these faults. These are nonproductive people that live in thier own personal hell. As I see, you surround yourself with people that are willing and able to confront issues with frank and honest debate. Bravo! This mindset is rare in this world…..sad.

  11. I am an engineer, I edit technical publications, I write, and I’m a “grammar Nazi” by my own admission. This has never interfered with my reading of William’s writings, or learning from him, listening to him, or loving him. There is more to appreciation of a person and their work than the turn of a phrase, much less the placement of an apostrophe.

  12. VERY good Corvair College #39 at Barnwell. It was my first and I learned much and had a great time. I will be back in November flying the Corvex, Cleanex, whatever is the right handle for it.

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