Ok is not ok?

I feel that it is a basic act of courtesy to acknowledge, however briefly, when someone has communicated with you via text message. So if they send me some information, I often will just say ‘Thanks’. If they have made a suggestion to which I agree (“Let’s meet at 10:00am”), I will reply ‘Ok’. If they ask me to confirm some choice (“Shall I come at 10:00?”), I will reply ‘Sure’.

I notice that some of the people will use the thumbs up emoji instead of words. But I am not an emoji kind of guy and felt that my words conveyed the same sense of agreement or acknowledgement.

But I am not an expert on social media communication and recently I was listening to a radio program and someone said that just replying ‘Sure’ was bad, in that it implied sarcasm, as if I had said ‘Yeah, sure’ in a disdainful voice. However, I was assured that ‘Sure!’ was fine.

She then went on to say that ‘Ok’ was even worse than ‘Sure’, which startled me since that is my most frequent from of acknowledgment.

I am not sure how universal this sentiment it. The mores in the world of online communication can change rapidly over time as well as vary a lot from person to person, so maybe ‘Ok’ and ‘Sure’ are ok despite what the speaker said.


  1. Heidi Nemeth says

    My late husband (b. 1951) used to say “Sure” when he meant “No, but I want you to hear yes because that is what you want to hear.” It was not what I understood “sure” to mean, though it became so when he spoke. When others speak, I am wary they mean “sure” the way my husband did.

  2. flex says

    I’ve realized recently that in my company we are using the “Thumbs-up” emoji to signify that, “I read and understood your last message and the conversation is now over.” Just like the old phrase, “Roger. Over and out.” Other emoji or phrases can be seen as being willing/interested in continuing the conversation, including, “Okay” or “Sure”, or a “Winking” or “Smiley-Face” emoji.

  3. mikey says

    @1: Well done.

    Seriously, I use the same replies as Mano, but am mainly corresponding with other old geezers who do likewise. Sometimes I have to search online to understand the slang I receive from my 13 year old granddaughter, though.

  4. Jörg says

    It depends on the context. In Mano’s examples where a decision is expected as a reply, I understand ‘sure’ and ‘ok’ to be confirmations.
    In a longer conversation stream and when no definitive answer is expected, they have less weight.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    The T-1000 terminator in Sarah Connor Chronicles says “sure” to the other Terminator before electrocuting it. I concluded that “sure” does not always indicate positive feelings.

  6. Jazzlet says

    What I would use would to an extent depend on who I was talking to, but yes I use single word confirmations for arrangements with some, with others I’d use a thumbs up emoji. It usually depends on what the other person does, I don’t use emojis instinctively, so only tend to use them when someone else does.

  7. John Morales says

    It’s standard asynchronous communications protocol to acknowledge receipt of messages, obviously.
    Not required for politeness or etiquette; those are just a happy bonus.

    With SMS/MMS protocols, the machine will know the other machine received the message, but that’s not the same thing, is it?

  8. file thirteen says

    The issue is that “ok” has taken on a couple of new connotations in certain contexts, and as we all know text-speak can easily be misinterpreted because of its emotionless nature (hence the reason why people have taken to using emojis). “Ok” alone is often used as a short form of “ok, if you say so” (meaning I disagree but I can’t be bothered arguing) and also, particularly when exaggerated (“oh… kay”), to disengage from, poke fun at, or humour someone who has just uttered something jaw-droppingly embarrassing.

    Personally I’ve got into the habit of replying just with “k”, which in text-speak is short for “ok” (once “okay”). Yes, it’s slang, and until you’re used to it it may seem ridiculous to abbreviate what is already an abbreviation. But it has taken on a meaning of “acknowledged” without the confusion of the other possible connotations of “ok”. No worse, and less cartoonish, than the thumbs-up emoji.

    The other way to go might actually be to write “Ok.” (or even “Okay.”), with period. That, surprising as it might seem, doesn’t carry the connotations which came from “ok” without a period, because the period clarifies that you’re not intending to imply anything or leave anything unsaid. So it is an alternative for those who aren’t afraid of appearing anachronistic.

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