Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

Gotta move on from gotcha

In his June 3 Style column, “Coverage is kicked to the curb at 1600 Penn,” Paul Farhi wrote about the condition of White House press coverage, seemingly wanting to revert to the old status quo. That model has become stale and no longer provides meaningful information. Reporters should abandon such coverage and look to create a newer, better process that relies less on gotcha moments and provides more relevant information. The current mode of public relations provides little information of substance and is used only to create a misleading version of the truth.


William Hultman, Clifton

Nasty language

As a physician, I was appalled by the language Kathleen Parker used in her June 9 op-ed, “Terminate abortion, please.” I could argue with any number of points raised in the column, but what I found unacceptable was the line “we should be talking about ways to end this primitive, barbaric procedure, which is risky, nasty and, unequivocally, life-ending.”

Legal abortion describes a group of modern medical and surgical procedures with exceedingly low complication rates. Does Parker consider appendectomy, in which metal instruments are stuck into the abdomen, “barbaric”? Would she describe tonsillectomy, which has a higher mortality rate than abortion, as “risky”? If not, then it is simply inflammatory to apply these words to abortion.


Most objectionable was Parker’s choice of the word “nasty.” This inherently judgmental word can have no other purpose than to falsely characterize abortions as dirty and to shame and belittle people who undergo them. In a prominent and well-respected paper, I find the casual use of such demeaning language alarming. A reasoned and respectful debate about abortion can be had, but with this phrase, Parker removed herself from it — preferring instead to cast lazy and patently false aspersions on a simple, safe medical procedure and those who choose to access it.


Faren Clum, Bethesda

He brooks no self-promotion

In a world of woe and upheaval, it’s sometimes hard to find a bright spot in the torrent of daily news. But the Sports section found a gem in its June 13 headline “The long and grinding road.” It touted an athlete I had never heard of and his arduous path to success. Placed at the top of the page, the short headline grabbed my initial attention. But then the alliteration in the subhead tempted me to read further as it focused on golf star Brooks Koepka, 29, who “labored from Tallahassee to Turkey, straight to the top of the golf world.”


Who was this young mystery man whom I had missed? Reporter Chuck Culpepper chronicled Koepka’s passion for golf, hard work and competition. Culpepper’s words were directed to me: “Forgive yourself, you busy sports fan, if somehow you find yourself illiterate about one of the tip-top one-man forces to rock American sports in the late 2010s. Through some quirky hash of factors, the general knowledge of Brooks Koepka strains to catch up to the merits of Brooks Koepka.” Culpepper noted that, despite Koepka’s age, he has already “claimed a preposterous four of the past nine major [golf] championships.” And Koepka “lacks any iota of the self-promotion chromosome.” That’s a winning combination, on and off the fairways.


Kathleen M. Burns, Alexandria


Big guns

The May 31 news article “Tech giant’s new policy brings its software to a gunfight” said Shopify amended its policy “to bar customers from using its technology to sell weapons such as automatic and semiautomatic firearms.”

Transfer between individuals of fully automatic weapons (i.e., “machine guns”) manufactured or possessed after May 19, 1986, is prohibited by the National Firearms Act.

Sadly, this is another example of reporters’ lack of awareness of facts pertinent to their subjects.

Thomas V. Holohan, Rockville

Small forms

I feel compelled, as a librarian, to point out a mistaken clue in the June 8 crossword puzzle. There is no such thing as a “sheet of microfilm.” Microfilm and microfiche are different formats. It’s a roll of microfilm and a sheet of microfiche. Microfilm and microfiche together are microforms. The clue should have read “sheet of microform.”


Stacey Marien, Washington

Per percent

The Deloitte study referenced in the June 9 Business article “Average millennial’s net worth is below $8,000 — a drop from years past” had a serious flaw that should have been addressed or explained.

“Today’s 20- and 30-somethings spend about 17 percent of their income on education, health care and rent, compared with 12 percent a decade ago, the study found.” How can this be? The Bureau of Labor Statistics website reports that the average amount spent on housing alone, including by renters and homeowners, is about 30 percent of income across all demographic categories. 

A further flaw is the lumping of 18-year-olds into a study of net worth. What 18-year-old has any net worth except for possibly negative net worth because of student loans? And why is this relevant to anything?


Finally, how is the statement that “households making $100,000 or more . . . watched their incomes rise 1,305 percent more than those in households making less than $50,000 a year” supposed to be interpreted? Let’s say that both income categories experienced a rise of 10 percent. That would correspond to an increase of $10,000 for the upper-income group and $5,000 for the lower. The $10,000 increase is 200 percent of the $5,000 increase. So, did the upper-income group benefit 200 percent as much as the lower-income group? Or did it experience the same percentage increase? Why not state the percentage increases of each category, rather than looking at percentages of percentages?

Richard Stone Rothblum, Washington


There's more than one way to skin a catfish

I was interested to read in the June 11 Metro article “As blue catfish multiply in Chesapeake Bay, watermen pursue a new catch” about the invasion of blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but was stopped dead in my tracks when the article said the fish “can grow into rounded 100-pound blobs of grayish-blue scales.”


I catch river cats all the time, and I’ve never found a single scale on any of them. Catfish have skin, not scales. I guess the writers don’t fish much.

Rick Flowe, Manassas

Disabling language

The June 5 Metro article “Nightclub for disabled people fosters inclusion and love” used the term “disabled people” in the title and “disabled adults” and “people with disabilities” in the article. It is important to use terms such as “a person (or people) with a disability” or “a person (or people) living with a disability” rather than “a disabled person” or “disabled people.”


This is not a matter of “political correctness” but rather of truth and respect for the whole person. Aside from the use of several unfortunate terms, the article beautifully demonstrated what we need to understand and value about people who live with a disability.


Clinical psychologist Beatrice A. Wright wrote: “To those who raise questions about ‘non-disabling language’: The main point is to avoid disabling the whole person. A person with a disability is not a ‘disabled person’ simply because that person can function. Anything that is ‘disabled,’ like a car, for example, can’t function, but a person who has a disability not only can function, but has more abilities than disabilities. . . . Non-disabling language . . . is an attempt to counteract the stigma of disabling the whole person.”

Pete Bloom, Alexandria

Consider it corrected

It must have been an oversight that nowhere in The Post on June 7 was there a mention of the first anniversary of our Washington Capitals winning Lord Stanley’s Cup. Please ensure that this omission is corrected for all time. 


Eric H. Weisblatt, Fairfax

Not yet corrected

As a retired sportswriter, I am embarrassed and saddened that Liz Clarke must still write articles about how the powerful men in the sports world still do not understand the word “equality” [“Double-earners,” Sports, June 9].

Karen Brelsford, Ellicott City

A fuller picture of Harriet Tubman

Charles Leader opined in his June 8 Free for All letter, “Old Hickory or a new twenty?,” that Harriet Tubman should have been hanged for her involvement in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. I guess it depends on which side of the fence you are standing. My grandmother was born in Stillwater, Maine, in 1882, and men in her family who fought in the Civil War were still only in their 50s when she was a teenager. As staunch abolitionists, they revered Brown and had gone into battle singing “John Brown’s Body,” a popular Union marching song they taught her (and she to me when I was a little girl). This was the early, simpler version of the song, but an 1861 reworking by abolitionist William Weston Patton held this verse: “He captured Harpers Ferry with his nineteen men so few / And frightened ‘Old Virginny’ till she trembled thru and thru / They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew / But his soul is marching on.”

After the war, some in the North felt those who had forsworn their oaths to the Constitution and fought against the Union should have been hanged.

As I said, there are two sides to that fence.

Gail Mackiernan, Silver Spring

Enabling language

The headline on Margaret Sullivan’s June 10 Style column, “What the media has lost since Watergate,” used “media” as a collective noun. But the second sentence — “Why aren’t the news media holding the White House accountable like they did during the Nixon/Watergate era?” — used the word as the plural of “medium.” I note this not just to snipe at inconsistent grammar but to point out how our sense of reporting toggles between the reality that it comprises multiple outlets and the casual view of the media as a single thing. The former acknowledges the individuality of news organizations; the latter often lapses into a perception that reporters and editors gang up behind one perspective. That may have given rise to another collective noun: enemy of the people.

Richard Cowden, Takoma Park

Enabling accuracy

The June 8 Style article “Tinker, tailor, catcher, spy” referred to Moe Berg’s parents as Ukrainian immigrants. That is inaccurate. At the time they immigrated to the United States, there was no country of Ukraine and “Ukrainian” referred to ethnicity, not nationality. The senior Bergs were not ethnically Ukrainian; they were Jews. Thus, it would be more appropriate to say they were Jewish immigrants from Russia or Austria-Hungary, depending on where they actually lived, as part of today’s Ukraine was in Austria-Hungary, not Russia, before World War I.

Jay Cherlow, Arlington

The more you know

The June 4 KidsPost article “How 3 brave suffragists helped women win right to vote” was interesting and informative, but I was surprised it did not include the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument House and Museum as a place to “find out more.” It is a National Park Service site on Capitol Hill, open Wednesday through Sunday.

Claride W. Mayo, Alexandria

Bring heed

Has the verb “take” been banished from The Post, or perhaps been taken hostage? Or do today’s journalists simply not know the difference between “take” and its directional cousin “bring”? Hint: You take something there and bring it here. But anymore the only one of the two that I see in The Post is “bring,” regardless of the direction something or someone is being transported.  Case in point: The June 7 news article “Trump’s family trip to Europe raises questions,” about the Trump children accompanying President Trump to England, noted that Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush also took their children on overseas trips, yet in both instances stated (incorrectly) that they “brought” their daughters with them. I would hope that professionally trained journalists might know the proper use of our language. 

Ralph A. Blessing, Washington

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