The Sunday circulation figure for the Dallas Times Herald was inadvertently substituted for the daily figure in yesterday's Style section. In the six months that ended Sept. 30, the newspaper's daily circulation was 231,224, compared with the 377,843 of the rival Dallas Morning News.

After nine months on the job, U.S. News & World Report Editor Shelby Coffey III resigned yesterday to become the editor of an embattled daily newspaper, the Dallas Times Herald.

Coffey, 39, told the staff he was expecting a "good dogfight down in Texas" with the dominant Dallas Morning News, according to Kathryn A. Bushkin, the magazine's director of editorial administration.

To more than 100 U.S. News staffers gathered in the editorial conference room Coffey said, "I was proud as a lion to lead you, and I'll miss you and I'll always remember these as glory days."

But while Coffey and U.S. News chairman and real estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman heaped praise on each other in their public statements yesterday, staff members said privately that relations between them had deteriorated as Zuckerman sought to exercise editorial control over the magazine.

Zuckerman, who spoke to the staff after Coffey, said he would be searching for a replacement for Coffey, who worked for The Washington Post for 17 years, most recently as assistant managing editor for national news, before joining U.S. News last April. Zuckerman said circulation and advertising were up, and that during Coffey's tenure the "foundation" for continued growth had been laid.

In a prepared statement, Zuckerman called Coffey "an extraordinarily decent man." He said, "I am absolutely delighted with this recognition of Shelby's excellent skills as an editor."

But one staff member who saw the joint Coffey-Zuckerman performance yesterday commented drily that if there had been a hypocrisy meter in the room, "it would have registered a perfect 10. There really is no love lost between those guys."

An insider who watched them work together said, "They were unable to have easy, friendly rapport. Disagreements that should have been over and done with seemed to linger."

Zuckerman declined through a spokesman to speak with reporters yesterday, and Coffey could not be reached for comment. Zuckerman bought the magazine in the summer of 1984 for $176.3 million; shortly after hiring Coffey, he named himself editor in chief.

In Dallas yesterday, Larry Tarleton, the Times Herald's managing editor for news, announced Coffey's appointment to the staff assembled around the city desk.

The paper has been without a top editor since editor Will Jarrett left two weeks ago to become a private media consultant. Jarrett had been on the job two years.

Coffey will leave his U.S. News post at the end of the month and is expected to assume his responsibilities full time by mid-February.

One Times Herald reporter, Bob Drummond, said that after yesterday's announcement the staff seemed "relieved to get the waiting over with. We'll have to see what he does when he gets here."

Reached in New York yesterday, Times Herald Publisher Arthur Wible, who himself has been on the job only four months, said Coffey was his first choice on a list of 10 candidates he interviewed.

Wible said he met with Coffey in New York Tuesday to make an offer that Coffey accepted.

"I think he's really a newspaper guy and probably misses the day-to-day challenge, and Dallas is a great" challenge, Wible said. He added that there is "a certain chemistry" between Coffey and himself.

In Washington yesterday Coffey said in a statement, "I am grateful to Mort Zuckerman for the opportunity to play a key role at U.S. News during a critical time in its history, and I have the greatest respect and admiration for Mort and the people I've worked with here." In his statement, Coffey cited such achievements as "setting up a strong editorial management team and launching a redesign," a major change in the magazine's appearance.

Coffey added, "But it's a great prospect to be working with daily newspapers again . . . One of the most exciting challenges in American newspapers today is in Dallas."

Zuckerman said, "With the depth of our new senior management team . . . we will continue to put out a news magazine of the highest quality." Zuckerman singled out those hired during Coffey's editorship -- Managing Editors David Gergen, Peter W. Bernstein, Edwin Taylor and John A. Walsh -- along with Editorial Director Harold Evans, who had joined the magazine before Coffey.

The rivalry between the Dallas Times Herald and the Dallas Morning News has been fierce. The Morning News is owned locally by the A.H. Belo Corp. The Times Herald is owned by Times Mirror Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, The Denver Post and other major papers. According to Editor & Publisher magazine, Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the six months ending Sept. 30, 1985, show that the Times Herald "slipped even further behind in its competition" with the Morning News.

Compared with the same period one year earlier, the Times Herald lost 39,398 subscriptions, lowering its daily circulation to 331,589. At the same time, the Morning News gained 17,496 readers, bringing its daily total to 377,843.

Wible said yesterday, "They lead a bit in circulation; we lead a bit in readers and a number of people think they have had a little more momentum than we have had."

He added that the acquisition of Coffey was going to help change that.