Are you okay / OK / O.K. ?

Sometimes there is no right or wrong way to do something. Okay is just such an example. After overhearing a rather heated discussion this week about it, I decided to look into the matter further. Just what is the correct form?]

Well, it turns out that there isn’t one.

No, seriously. You can use okay, OK or O.K. and it really doesn’t matter.

According to Wikipedia:

The earliest recorded claimed usage of okay is a 1790 court record from Sumner CountyTennessee, discovered in 1859 by a Tennesseehistorian named Albigence Waldo Putnam, in which Andrew Jackson apparently said:

proved a bill of sale from Hugh McGary to Gasper Mansker, for an uncalled good, which was O.K.[1]

In the early 1800’s there was a fad for comical abbreviations that were derived from misspellings, and it’s thought that ‘OK’ was derived from a misspelling of ‘all correct’ ie. ‘oll korrect.’

But wherever it came from, the fact remains that there is no ‘right’ was to spell it.


Not really. (See what I did there?)

Alright is another of those words which tend to get the heckles up, and again, it’s not quite as straightforward as it first seems.

Alright is generally considered to be a misspelling of ‘all right’ and while many consider it to be incorrect, it’s usage is popular and it’s listed in the dictionary. But we should consider the connotations of the two words, for instance, the use of ‘all right’ implies that the subject is ‘all correct’ while the use of ‘alright’ generally gives the implication of something being ‘good enough.’

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve seen both of them in print, which does nothing to help stem the confusion. From what I’ve heard of others, often it’s a matter of house style as to which is adopted. Sorry I can’t be alot (groan) of help on this one.

I know, I know. The linguistic jokes are getting old.

Next up is the super deadly important issue of single and double quotation marks.

I still have nightmares from my thesis days (science folks are scary sometimes) about getting the formatting exactly the way the university wanted it, or risk loosing marks for incorrect referencing. So, no pressure there.

My university wanted double quotation marks and single quotation marks for quotes within a quote. Confusing? Not really, here’s an example:

“Bill agreed that while the ‘intention was sound’ it was ‘fundamentally flawed’ in it’s execution.”

In this example the words in single quotation marks are the words that ‘Bill’ has said – you’ll see this short integrated type of quotation used a lot in journalism and academic papers as a way to keep the piece flowing without having to write the full quotation. And yes, if the quote comes at the end of the quotation then there are three quotation marks “‘ just to confuse you.

In general fiction use it’s common to see both double and single quotation marks – just pick a book of your shelf and see. Unless of course it’s a Roddy Doyle book, in which case good luck with that.

Generally single quotation marks are more common in the UK, while double quotation marks are more common in the US. Although to be honest, it’s not really that big a deal, but if you are concerned about it then you can always use the find+replace function.



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