A reader stumbled on the word OKing in the following:
Owners of eight rooftop clubs abutting Wrigley Field sued to overturn city approval of the $375 million plan to rebuild the aging ballpark, saying the city broke its own rules in OKing the plan and effectively deprived them of their property rights without due process.
After a moment, the reader figured out that OKing was the present participle inflection of OK.
NOTE: an inflection is a variation in the spelling of a word to indicate a change in case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, voice, or comparison. OK is inflected as both a noun and a verb.
As a noun, OK is used in the plural as well as in the singular. As a verb, it is inflected to show person, number, and tense.
A glance at usage in various publications quickly shows disagreement as to how to spell and inflect this indispensable word:
Judge gives her preliminary OK
Is it Okay for My Cat to Have Milk?
Get the estimates, then notify the receivers for their OKs.
We soon had inspectors come and give the house all of their ok’s and ratings.
Verb (Past Tense):
Highlights of gun bill OK’d by Massachusetts House
Bill delaying plans to move disabled from institutions OKed by NJ Assembly
Cyber Bill okayed by US Senate committee; faces uphill struggle
Verb (Present Participle):
U.S. heading toward OKing more ‘Roundup-Ready’ genetically engineered farm acreage
EPA rules on sulfur in gasoline, okaying guns in Indiana school parking lots
What help do the authorities offer?
The Chicago Manual of Style does not include a rule in any of its numbered sections for spelling or inflecting OK, but it does use the spelling OK in some of its examples. And in its question and answer feature, an editor declares that okay is a standard “equal variant” of OK.
Three of my dictionaries–the OED, Merriam-Webster (M-W), and the Australian Concise Oxford (OA)–show OK as the preferred spelling and okay as an acceptable alternative. My Oxford Canadian Current English (OCC) gives okay as the main entry and OK as an alternative spelling.
Here is their take on the inflections of OK as a verb:
OED: Present participle OK’ing or OKing; past tense and past participle OK’ed, OK-ed, OKed.
M-W: OK’d or okayed; OK’d or okayed; OK’ing or okaying; OK’s or okays
OA: OK’s, OK’d, OK’ing
OCC: okays or OK’s, okayed or OK’d, okaying or OK’ing
Finally, The AP Stylebook does not mess about with alternatives. Here’s the AP rule on inflections for the verb OK:
OK, OK’d, OK’ing, OKs. Do not use okay.
Bottom line: If you have a stylebook, follow it. If you have a choice, choose the inflected forms that make the most sense to you. Having made your choice, be consistent.
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