“OK” is one of the most frequently used words in the English
language. We say it all the time. And in spoken conversations, it’s a perfectly
good word to use. If you stopped by your coworker’s office and asked him or her
for a favor, and your coworker responded by saying “OK,” that would be a very
pleasant and agreeable exchange.
But the word “OK” can take on a whole different tone when it’s
used in an instant message or email. Once again, let’s imagine that you ask
your coworker for a favor. But this time, you do it in an email rather than in
person. Your coworker emails back with just one word – “OK.” Now the response
doesn’t seem all that friendly. It seems curt, and maybe even angry and aggressive.
Author Monica Torres investigated why the word “OK” feels so
different in written conversation. And she found that it may be less about the
actual word and more about the brevity of the response. When we’re talking to
someone face-to-face and that person says “OK,” he or she often includes a nod
or a smile. That makes the word seem friendly. But in a text or email, a simple
“OK” doesn’t tell us anything about the person’s mood or emotions. Maybe the
person is busy and only had time for a quick one-word response. Or maybe the
person is frustrated and annoyed by the favor that you’ve requested. There’s no
way to know!
So if you want to reply with an “OK” but you don’t want
there to be any misconceptions, what should you do? Torres suggests that you
simply add a few words to your response. Saying “OK, sounds good” or “OK, great”
sounds friendly. Even adding an exclamation point to the end of your “OK” is
probably enough to make it a positive response. Got it? OK!
Torres, M. (2019, February 12). Why replying ‘OK’ in work
chats sounds so aggressive, according to an internet linguist. HuffPost. Retrieved from: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/okay-ok-k-workplace-language_l_5c619182e4b0910c63f35750