I often use "OK" in business and personal emails and phone conversations. But I often feel uncertain if it is appropriate to use it in every type of context.

Please tell how universally I can use this word (if it can be called "word") without annoying native English speakers?


It's ok to use it in pretty much any email and (especially) phone conversation, even in business context. At least that's my experience from the software industry (communicating mostly with European and North American people). For formal letters and academic writing it would be a different story, of course.

But if you don't want to annoy people, please do not always write it in capital letters ("OK"), ok? :-) Maybe it's just me, but that seems somewhat archaic.

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    It's not just you. I rarely see "OK," just "ok" or "okay." – kitukwfyer Aug 9 '10 at 20:59
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    I agree on the whole in regards to your "ok" vs "OK" argument. However I would point out that in some cases, "OK" is probably the better choice. An example would be when it is used on a button in software ("OK"/"Cancel") and possibly anywhere else where it is a completely standalone statement (outside the context of speech). – Mark Embling Aug 10 '10 at 7:55
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    If you want lower case, spell it out as okay. I hate ok; I always want to pronounce it as it's spelled, which is just wrong. Also ok is very uncommon. I've seen it in print in one novel, no more. OK is fine for standalone; okay in a sentence. Not ok. – TRiG Oct 15 '10 at 16:39
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    To me, "okay" seems more friendly than "OK". Since capital letters typically denote shouting online, "OK" feels like an amplified "okay", meaning "I'm pissed, but okay." E.g. "I will have the site done by Friday. Sorry it's taking so long." "OK." – Joey Adams May 17 '11 at 22:04

I was taught in American schools that "OK" was the correct spelling, because it was an acronym for [various improbable figures of speech]. Suspiciously, it turned out that "okay" is a word from the same languages African slaves spoke, and it means "OK". Early Americans didn't like to acknowledge the African contribution to American culture, which is the likely reason for the acronymic construction. Assuming we accept that theory, "okay" is the more correct spelling.

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    I always write OK or okay in e-mails. On dialog buttons and other bits of computer UI it is always OK and in any formal writing always okay. – jeffamaphone Aug 12 '10 at 19:36
  • When I was traveling in Greece, I had numerous Greeks tell me that the origin of the word "ok" was the Greek phrase "Olles Kala" which means "All Good". They are very insistent on this, and for some unknown reason extremely proud of it. – JohnFx Aug 12 '10 at 20:26
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    For further reading, see Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue pages 164-166 for other legends concerning the origin of OK. I vaguely recall his conclusion was "nobody really knows for sure." – jeffamaphone Aug 12 '10 at 20:53
  • There are many theories about the origin of OK. The more recent I have heard is that it originated as 0K (zero K); the dictionary I use most of the time says that its origin is fro "orl korrect", humorous form of all correct, popularized as a slogan during President Van Buren's reelection campaign of 1840. – apaderno Aug 13 '10 at 2:19
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    There's a separate question here on the etymology of "OK": english.stackexchange.com/questions/17/… – Jonik Aug 24 '10 at 7:02

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