Don’t Write “OK”

If someone asks you a question on the Internet or in text, don’t say “OK”. or yes”. You can use “of course” or “yes” without punctuation; you should probably add an exclamation mark. Otherwise, you may appear passive-aggressive, dismissive, or angry. There is a good reason for this.

While I thought everyone knew this already, there is at least one New York Times reader that needs to be told . Consultant Columnist Katie Weaver (Emeritus spokesperson for our former subsidiary Gawker) explained that “OK” or “K” might sound rude and recommended “KK” or “OK!” But why?

In a face-to-face meeting, when you want to say something politely, you say it less effectively. You’re “putting in extra effort,” says linguist Gretchen McCulloch in her book Because the Internet , “using hedges, courtesy, or just other words: Doctor, can I ask you to open a window? “Against” Open the window! ” “. On the net, you do the same, but with different tactics.

One of them, according to McCulloch, is an exclamation point. In 2014, The Onion established that only a “stone-hearted ice witch” could send a “nice to see you” email without exclamation marks. A recent popular Instagram post does the same with a screenshot of Baby Yoda. The need for an exclamation mark has been moved to texts, chat and Slack.

Another tactic I have used is to replace “yes” with “aha” or “of course” with “correct”, using the usual form of the word, so as not to sound like an android or a cop. Not too far, or sincerity starts to sound like sarcasm, but pay attention to how you say yes in person and try to imitate that in your messages. You will likely find yourself using more words than you thought, even to say yes.

These tiny options matter when you are sending tiny messages. With a longer message, you have more options for conveying your tone of voice, especially in the actual words you use. In a standard “yes” message, you have very little room for tone.

Personally, you use more words, but you also – consciously or not – convey everything in tone of voice, facial expression, and body language. If you allow your face to relax, stop and say yes. In a tone of finality, it’s fair to assume that you were intentionally unfriendly.

It’s the same on the Internet. If you really want to express pure contempt for someone online, you write formally, use a period to add finality to your words, or try to say words as little as possible to show that you don’t want to waste your time. (Watch how people argue on social media.) If you don’t want to sound dismissive, be about 50% better than you need to be.

Weaver writes, half-jokingly in his column, “As a woman, I keep the bustle of the control center behind my thoughts, where everything that has been said to me is analyzed for evidence of impending physical threats.” To some extent, this is true for everyone: we all scan communication for a potential threat, at least an emotional one. So if your message can be read as threatening or cold, so be it. (The solo “k” is a wellknown disparaging response to any stupidity.) To avoid this, add a little warmth.

These customs change over time and among the population. You probably know someone who goes overboard with a lot of exclamation marks. (This happens all the time in corporate emails from HR or other departments, which really should be friendly to everyone at all times.) You can find a community of professionals who seem to get along well with formal language. But if you are the most formal in the group, then trust me: everyone thinks you hate them.


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