Writer suggests words used may be misleading

Editor Letters to the Editor Leave a Comment

To the Editor:

In David Nunn’s puzzling response to my letter, he wishes that I had “checked the facts” of the City Council’s vote regarding its outstanding utilities debt, yet he ignores what Stephanie Johns wrote in her July 3 article.

Mr. Nunn states that “writing off these bad debts does not mean attempts to collect all amounts due the City will be abandoned.” Ms. Johns wrote, “Members of the Madison City Council voted to write off a total of $185,414.16 in utilities.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “write off” means (1) to eliminate (an asset) from the books: enter as a loss or expense or (2) to regard or concede to be lost. If Mr. Nunn is correct, then both Ms. Johns and Merriam-Webster are incorrectly using the word “write off.”

The article states, “The list includes terminated accounts…that are considered uncollectible.” Merriam-Webster defines “uncollectible” as “not collectible.” So are the debts uncollectible as the Citizen states and Merriam-Webster defines? Or are they going to be “sent to a debt collection agency for collection” per Mr. Nunn?

A chart headlined “City’s Major Utility Write-offs” accompanied this article. There’s that disputed term again. Should readers use the dictionary definition as the Citizen did?  Or is it much more flexible in its meaning, as Mr. Nunn suggests?

Mr. Nunn, you are correct that public servants deserve the courtesy of fact-checking. So do you believe that Ms. Johns “checked the facts” when using the words “write-off” and “uncollectible?” Or is she, too, in error?

Marie Manning

Alexandria, Va.

Via e-mail

Leave a Reply