The Rev. Louis C. Shearer of Springfield writes: In The Post of Sept. 11, the writer of the story re the firing of the Richmond city manager falls into an old error of declaring that certain Virginians pronounce 'out' as 'oot'.

"Let your writer be advised that Virginia natives do not rhyme 'out' with either 'oot' (this would be a barbarism to us) or with 'owt' (as in Ow! that hurts). We rhyme it with the British 'out', which is in between. I could graciously accept being accused of ootness when attending Emory U. in Georgia, but I had expected more from right next door, especially from a great paper like yours. Can something be done to tune reporters' ears more accurately?"

I'm afraid not, sir. In that item about the French girls, I tried to convey the idea of their French accent by writing "call" as "coal" and "not" as "nowt." There's no need to tell me those spellings were inept. I know that. The problem was that I just didn't know a better way to indicate what a French person does with those two simple English words. P.S.: I just had my ears tuned.It's my keyboard that's off key.