"Stories That Never End," by your ombudsman, Joseph Laitin {Feb. 7}, is like a loud belch at a dinner party. Will he be asked to leave the table?

His offense -- that a "flow of gibberish fills too much of The Post" -- will probably be tolerated as self-criticism, a recognized virtue. Or it can be laughed off: who bothers with a commentary of only 700 words?

Why don't the editors edit? Is it because, as Norman Adler argued in your pages Jan. 27, we've all become "newsaholics . . . drowning in words"? The euphoria felt by Israelis when their broadcast services went off the air is like the calm I felt on Guadalcanal and Bougainville in 1943, happily remote from press and radio agitations.

When reporters were first given by-lines, they carried on just giving the news succinctly. Now they are "writers," producing the occasional small masterpiece (I think of Blaine Harden's articles "On the Zaire River" last November), but more often are simply long-winded. Compare the old-fashioned wire-service report that encapsulates the actual news in the first paragraph, then adding details that can be cut at any succeeding paragraph.

Today it can take eight inches of graceful but labored prose before the subject is brought into focus. One recourse is to read the first one or two paragraphs, and the last, to test whether the rest are worth the effort.

Somerset Maugham would have been in Laitin's corner. "There is no need," he said, "for the writer to eat a whole sheep to tell you what mutton tastes like." -- Patrick O'Sheel