"Washington is a good calligraphy town -- it's all the signs, brochures and especially invitations," says Phyllis Goodnow, who has organized an exhibition of work by calligraphers on the theme of nuclear disarmament and world peace. Artists from the United States, the Soviet Union, England and Canada, including a dozen Washingtonians, submitted the 56 pieces chosen for the juried show.

Goodnow, a professional calligrapher herself, says calligraphy treads the thin line between fine art and craft. "It is a two-dimensional representation, but it's not painting -- there's no image," she says. "But the words allow calligraphy to say something." The artists in the exhibition have chosen words by John F. Kennedy and Helen Caldicott, among others, and several came up with personal thoughts.

The Washington Calligraphers Guild claims more than 500 members in the area, and Goodnow says the number is growing because of the influence of Sheila Waters, one of the world's leading calligraphers and a member of the international Society of Scribes and Illuminators. The most popular style of calligraphic writing, says Goodnow, is "good old italic," but short, chunky letters done with a flat pen angle "seem to be the newest thing."

The exhibition runs through Nov. 15 at the Kogod Arts Center at Sidwell Friends School, 3825 Wisconsin Ave. NW (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.), and moves to the Rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building Jan. 1.

Speaking of the written word . . . several noted writers will read for nuclear disarmament at 8 p.m. on Monday (election eve) at New York's Minetta Lane Theater. Authors include Susan Cheever, John Irving, Arthur Kopit, Judith Rossner and Kurt Vonnegut; some will read from unpublished work. Call (212) 831-9224.