Ten American writers have become the first recipients of $25,000 grants awarded by the Whiting Foundation, a private philanthropic organization based in New York.

Gerald Freund, director of the program and a former vice president of the MacArthur Foundation, said the committee of writers, editors and scholars that made the final choices put an emphasis on "promising emerging talents" and "the likelihood of outstanding future work." The awards are tax exempt.

The total of $250,000 offered by the foundation makes it the largest privately funded program of individual support exclusively for writers.

Freund said the awards will continue annually. This year's winners are:

*Raymond Abbott, novelist, author of "Death Dances," 1979.

*Douglas Crase, poet, author of "The Revisionist," 1981.

*Stuart Dybek, associate professor, Western Michigan University, author of "Childhood and Other Neighborhoods," 1980.

*Jorie Graham, poet, assistant professor, Iowa Writer's Workshop, author of "Erosion," 1983.

*Linda Gregg, poet, author of "Too Bright to See," 1981.

*Wright Morris, professor emeritus, San Francisco State University, author of works of fiction, autobiography, essays and photo essays, including recent memoir "A Cloak of Light," 1985.

*Howard Norman, professor, Middlebury College, author of forthcoming novel "The Northern Lights."

*James Robison, author of "Rumor and Other Stories," 1985.

*James Schuyler, poet, author of "A Few Days," 1985.

*Austin Wright, novelist, professor, University of Cincinnati, author of "The Morley Mythology," 1977.