Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Okay vs OK

Okay, are you ready for your world to be rocked? 

Most sources say the correct form is OK, and sometimes O.K. (as at the New Yorker and the New York Times). That's because the term originated in 1839 as the abbreviation for "oll korrect," the facetious alternative for "all correct." (Those crazy 19th-century cats!) 

So "okay" is not OK. Except when it is okay. Calling it "the most successful Americanism ever--perhaps the best-known word on the planet," Bryan Garner writes in Garner's Modern American Usage: 
"okay" has an advantage in edited English: it more easily lends itself to cognate forms such as "okays," "okayer," "okaying," and "okayed." The term is a casualism in any event, but "okay" is slightly more dressed up than "OK."
Don't tell that to the Associated Press, though. Its style book prefers "OK, Ok'd, OK'ing, OKs. Do not use okay." And the New York Times manual advises: "O.K., not okay... Do not use O.K. as a verb except in a direct quotation (O.K.'s; O.K.'d; O.K.'ing)." To my eye, all those periods and apostrophes look not OK; I prefer no periods, as does Merriam-Webster's.

The long of it is that the short form "OK" is preferred. That okay with you?

(T-shirt pictured available here.)


  1. It's certainly OK with me. All those periods always seemed tedious!

  2. Thanks, @Jes Me (great name!) and CreekHiker! OK and OKley Dokely indeed.

    Oh, and I love that T-shirt the more I look at it. Can you stand that it's so wrong--i.e., the missing apostrophe in "its" and the missing third period in the ellipsis? It warms my punctilious heart.

  3. I keep thinking about this post and want to ask is there a new consensus on t.v.??? I think it should be TV. It's time to get rid of all unnecessary periods!

  4. @Creekhiker, definitely drop the periods in TV. That's pretty standard these day.

    @Premasru, K works for me too--in informal writing. ; )

  5. I was going to use "OK'd" today and wondered about it.. wound up here. In the end I just changed it to "approved". It seemed more professional, and what's that apostrophe doing between the K and the d anyway?

  6. I always thought OK was a less formal okay, but now I know that's not the case. Thanks!

  7. You might want to indicate that your etymology for "OK" is not definitive; there's quite a bit of contention over where it comes from.

    In fact, your etymology is generally considered to be political propaganda used against Andrew Jackson (initially used in 1830). (Allan Walker Read: "The Folklore of "O. K.").

    Personally, I am a fan of the theory that it comes from the Ulster Scottish "och, aye" which was first used in the 18th century.


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