Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Everything's "OK"

Snark/Rant Warning: This post has probably been a long time coming because it's one of my bigges pet peeves, and since I've been thinking a ton about communication lately, it felt now is the time. I'm probably going to get some backlash, but eh, that's pretty much life as a blogger.

I'm a big texter and electronic communicator in general. On a recent survey that asked "Is email an appropriate way to follow up after you've met someone at a networking event?" My response was "Please don't call me." Electronic communication is just how I roll. But I do have a one giant pet peeve, and it applies to texting in particular: the word "OK". Or any form of it. Just "K"? Have you virtually lost all use of your hands and manage to only squeak out one letter? Then it's acceptable. Or are you just so lazy, or care so little about my communication, that it's not worth typing the letter O? Then it's not acceptable. And "KK"? Maybe it's the grammar snob in me, but if you're going to write both letters, why don't you form an actual word? This one I truly don't understand. Also, know that when you do this, I'm picturing Alicia Silverstone in Clueless on the other end of the phone.

Why do I hate OK? Let's picture this as a live (in person) conversation:

You: How's your day?
Them: OK
You: So I was thinking this weekend maybe we could go to the beach (go to dinner, a movie, take belly dancing lessons, whatever you want)?
Them: K
You: Saturday would probably be better than Sunday for me because Sunday morning I'm learning how to tango dance with an elephant and then Sunday afternoon, I'm getting my appendix removed. In fact I'm doing it myself because my doctor isn't covered by my insurance anymore.
Them: KK

Do you see where I'm going with this? If this was a face-to-face conversation, I'd probably check to confirm that the person still had a pulse. But for some reason, this seems totally acceptable in text. And my guess is, they won't remember any of it. Because "OK" (or K, or KK) here tells me that they couldn't possibly have read anything other than maybe the "How's your day?", and even that, I doubt it - nobody's day is simply "ok", with no possible adjective to describe it, all day, every day. Also, I still have absolutely no idea if we are going to the beach on Saturday, which means I have to somehow manage to have this whole ridiculous conversation again. What's worse to me is when someone replies hours or even days later and still simply writes "OK." That means they've actually waited until they had enough time to reply - so this wasn't the result of a rush job that they figured they'd circle back to. This is literally all they are willing to type to you.

Let me clarify that I get there are times that OK is appropriate, and there are certainly times I've felt it appropriate to write myself.  If it's not a habit, and happens sporadically, I'm generally fine with it. It's when a good number of the person's replies are in this fashion. Here are my personal exceptions:
  • You're in a situation where you need to reply something to let the person know you received the text but aren't really in the position to do so verbosely (i.e. driving, in the middle of an important call/project at work, running a marathon, in the hospital).
  • Someone's telling a multi-text story and you want them to know you're listening but don't want to interrupt - just as you would nod or say ok in person. 
  • It's an instructional/strictly informational text that they don't expect a full reply to. I.e.. "I'm on my way but going to grab coffee at wawa first. Be there in 10 minutes". Unless you're going to ask them to get you one too, there's not much else to say. Again, it just shows they received it (though I prefer some other options, below). 
  • You're suddenly being pulled away from the communication. "Oh crap, have a phone call, brb". "OK". This happens more in google/Facebook chat then text, but is acceptable in text too, because by making them read something longer, you'd actually be delaying them. Also, this falls under the informational category above. 
  • I also, personally, use only OK when I'm pissed off at you and want you to know it. Because there's far more danger in my silent, or virtually silent, treatment than my getting loud and yelling. 
I want to also be clear, I understand that some of us are verbose while others not. I get that some people aren't big texters, just like I'm not a big phone talker, and they're trying to meet me in the middle. I don't think you need to write a novel over text. But let the recipient know that you've read it, and it's made some sort of impact on you. Anything, even the slightest thing that shows some emotion, will go along way. For example:

  • If I really need to say OK, I usually say "oky doky". It sounds more conversational, friendly somehow. If nothing else, it requires me typing seven letters instead of one or two. Still, it more or less just applies to the exceptions above. 
  • Add an emoji. If you put an appropriate emoji, it shows you've at least read the text and not just writing OK by rote. 
  • A quick phrase that shows how you're feeling about what they wrote. For instance, if I say I'm on my way over, a "yay!" or "see you soon!" works. If it's that they're having a bad day, an "I'm sorry" or "Anything I can do?" (only if you mean it) helps. 
The theme here is, it's acceptable, generally speaking, if you can't reply to something right away. Instead, as long as it's appropriate given the circumstance, wait until you have the time to type out a thoughtful response. Communication in which you're not both invested in the conversation isn't communication at all. It's a soliloquy for the person actually making an effort, and it makes them feel unimportant. And if you doubt this, just turn the conversation around. You've had a busy day or an exciting piece of news or something sad happen and you really want to tell someone about it, and when you reach out to them, they reply, perhaps hours later, with "OK". That is not, in fact, OK at all. 


  1. I admit, I had to laugh when I read this post. This is one of my dad's pet peeves, except it's not just saying "OK." He does not like any one syllable answers. Yes, there are exceptions to that "rule", for example "yes" or "no" questions.

    1. Haha yes I think this one probably makes me sound older than my years. Oddly, i don't mind most one-word responses if it sounds nice enough, or even abbreviations. Things like BRB don't bother me because I know it's done quickly. I guess my rule is, if you'd use it in face to face, it's ok. If it would sound abrupt in face to face then no. For instance, if you say "do you need anything from the store?" no is fine (no thanks is probably better, but still it's understandable). If I say, "do you want to go to the beach on Sat,' and you just say "no", that sounds a little harsh without explanation haha. Thanks for the comment!