While Tom Shales has done well to confront the distressing use of unsavory language on TV, he undercut his whole argument with the amazing observation that "language does not corrupt minds or imperil souls" {"Fall's Off-Color," Style, Sept. 4}. I strongly disagree.

Language is the flesh and blood of communication, not only imparting information but rich with nuances. English professors grade papers not just on content and style but upon clarity of thought and expression. Awkward, vague sentences mean more than clumsy composition; imprecise language reveals incomplete thought. Language and thought are married with all the subtlety and nuances of the mind in the act of expressing itself.

Language can "imperil souls." It can cut as sharply as a rapier or strike as bluntly as a bludgeon. Crass, filthy language on TV is a bludgeon, a crude instrument designed to elicit a reaction through shock rather than communicate anything of worth.

Tom Shales also overlooks the crux of the controversy over off-color remarks by not addressing the underpinnings of the "tell-it-like-it-is" school so popular these days among Hollywood dons. Such a premium is placed on reproducing "reality" in its crudest, sleaziest and most violent form that no one weighs the negative against the positive.

Having our noses rubbed in it, and those of our nation's children, night after night, produces little redeeming social value, unless the goal is a generation of street-mouthed, jaded, uninhibited children who have been taught to think and react in the phrases of the gutter. What thoughts are bred by such abusive uses of language?

The ancients believed that entertainment was most satisfying when it taught as well as delighted. How unfortunate that in our modern world we seem to have lost the desire to edify while enjoying life's pleasures, preferring rather to push all the necessary buttons to elicit our most base responses.

CAROL ANNE JONES Falls Church