Chuck Conconi's reference in the Oct. 28 "Personalities" column {Style} to former senator Gary Hart's meeting at the Jefferson Hotel was childish. A continuing and peculiar preoccupation with the personal business of this now-private citizen amazes me. What possible value could that entry hold? Stop tittering.

-- Gregory G. Lebel Constant Comment

Imagine that units of length are subject to 5 percent inflation annually. Feet and inches are shrinking in value, growing shorter. Would your Sports pages then report that today's track stars -- running on shorter tracks -- are much faster than last year's stars?

No. So why do you violate the same principle by reporting "Social Security Benefits Going Up" and " 'Entitlements' Escalating" {news stories, Oct. 19}? In analyzing trends and making comparisons one must use a measure that does not change. My example used rubber feet and inches -- yours used rubber dollars. Maybe entitlements should be cut. But if they are, it should be with the knowledge that they are real cuts, not raises denied.

Sound policy begins with a clear understanding of the facts. The facts are that in constant dollars, entitlements have been shrinking all year and the 5.4 percent adjustment would bring them back to what they were a year earlier. The income lost during the year will never be recovered, even with full cost-of-living adjustments. -- Frank E. McKenzie Rhyme and Reason

In the article "And Now, Odes for Every Occasion" {Style, Oct. 25}, Elizabeth Kastor was critical of poet laureate Howard Nemerov for writing "poetry on demand" and of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for commissioning it.

The occasion was the dedication of a new addition to the association's headquarters. Unless I missed the point, Kastor implied that ribbon-cutting was enough for such occasions but that writing a poem was embarrassing. What she forgets is that most of the art in the world was commissioned. I guess Kastor felt she had the right to write her article on commission because hers is not art. -- Iris Fernandini Single Standard

In an otherwise thought-provoking column about the failure of Mayor Marion Barry's advisers to advise {Metro, Oct. 29}, Dorothy Gilliam resorted to her all-too-standard statements of persecution -- "society has it in for strong black males ... unequal justice" -- to bemoan Barry's prison sentence.

Society would have it in for anyone in power who was caught using illicit drugs these days. Add in Barry's alleged philandering, his smug air of invincibility (pre-Vista Hotel) and an administration with more than its share of shady key players, and you have a prescription for disaster for a politician of any race. Barry's behavior wasn't merely "sassing the establishment" -- it was sassing those who placed their trust in him to govern.

It was not necessary for Barry to have been "purer than Caesar's wife." But it was necessary that he apply to himself the same standards that apply to others -- conduct yourself with integrity and honor and be prepared to accept the consequences if you don't. -- James R. Odom Perverse Pleasure

While I agreed with much of Joseph McLellan's review of "Salome" {Style, Nov. 5}, I don't agree that just because it has a cast of powerful, perverted characters (as do many operas, after all), it cannot be enjoyed. It is one of the Washington Opera's best productions, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Further, McLellan erred when he wrote that the body of Capt. Narroboth is left on stage for most of the opera: it is clearly and conspicuously removed, and the bloodstains are wiped away after about 10 minutes. -- Diana Furchtgott-Roth The Narrow View

Your paper has cultural tunnel vision.

On the front page of Washington Business, you ran a story that quoted British economist Josiah Stamp. The editor of that story, however, made Stamp's grammar conform to American usage: "the governments are very keen on amassing statistics." The British, however, treat collective nouns as plural for verb conjugation (i.e., "the Smith Co. regret any inconvenience." By adding the "s," an editor changed Stamp's meaning, making his statement seem to be about governments everywhere, not just the British government. -- Steve Gold Lying an Egg

One "lays" an egg, and one "lays" a wreath, but one does not "lay" in bed. In the edition I received, the caption beneath the photograph of D.C. police officer Michelle Boullard said "she lays in her bed, surrounded by stuffed animals" {Metro, Oct. 30}.

Without disrespect for the lady in question, who was injured in the line of duty, if she hatched the stuffed animals, she might be said to be "laying." I doubt she did, however, and she is therefore "lying" in bed. -- Peter Curl