THE NAKED WRITER
Okay! OK! ok! O.K.!
And I don’t mean Oklahoma.
When I don’t know the best use of a word or the best spelling, I take the most incredible step: I look it up. That must be an amazing thing to do because I notice most of my students make errors they could easily have corrected if they’d looked up the word—a novel idea, I guess.
So recently, I was editing a couple of different pieces of work for people, and the word ok loomed large on the page. My old Associated Press Stylebook gave me OK as the AP thumbs-up version. And the AP book told me not to use “okay.” OK, I hopped to.
Now, looking the word up again online, I see the Merriam-Webster dictionary folks really don’t mind if I say okay instead of OK. But that’s it. They draw the line at those two choices.
The Grammarist (http://grammarist.com/spelling/ok-okay/ ) is willing to go out on a limb, citing The New York Times, and will allow us to use the O.K. version. Let me just say “fine.”
So I checked on the origins of the word to see if I could draw a bead on what the best spelling might actually be. Now the first use ever could be that it was a joking abbreviation for “all correct”; a Morse code abbreviation; a Greek abbreviation meaning “Olla Kalla” (everything is fine); or from the Choctaw language. That’s clear, right?
And consider this, too, the word is a verb. In that case, would “okay” work for you? You wouldn’t want to OK the invoice, would you? Or would you?
All this is to say, language is complicated. And as I beg many of my Writer’s Digest University students, look up “all right versus alright” if deciding which is proper nags at you.
To conclude somewhat, I select the most-used version of a word. In this case, I chose OK. Sometimes we have to employ our own good judgment and taste and commonsense—or, possibly, common sense.
But for some actual clarity, try The Naked Writer, out any day now in a second edition from Curiosity Quills. Or, never mind and read my novel Question Woman & Howling Sky, being released, also any day now, by Portals Publishing.