Saturday, May 25, 2013

Okay or not OK?

I was happily reading the Age the other day, thinking everything was okay with life when I spotted an article titled “You don’t need to spell it out, OK is okay in anyone’s language”. WTF? Had someone gone and changed the language rules without telling me?

The article itself is more about the origins of okay than a debate over which way to spell it, but it does say that it is okay to use OK instead of okay. And I had changed every use of OK to okay in a manuscript I recently edited (sorry Chris).

Just to make sure, I checked out the online Macquarie dictionary. It informed me that OK, o.k. and okay were all OK. Unconvinced, I searched for an online style guide. The only one I found that would let me in without having to stuff around registering or paying, was for the Guardian newspaper in England. It says: OK is OK; okay is not. So it looks like okay could not be OK here sometime in the future.

Has U Gone Missing?

OK got me thinking, what other spellings might have changed lately? Is it no longer acceptable to put a u in colour or labour? The Macquarie dictionary says: In Australia, as in Britain, the most common spelling of these words is with -our, although -or is often used and certainly occurs consistently in a large number of magazines and newspapers. That got me checking.

I know Divine, who I write, for uses colour. And the Age still uses Labour except when referring to the Australian Labor party. Interestingly, my word spellchecker, set to Aussie English, wants me to keep the u in Labour.

Do you Realise?

What about s or z in specialise or realise? For Divine we use an s instead of a z. The Macquarie dictionary says both specialise and specialize are OK. A quick check of the Age found specialise but not specialize. And the word spellchecker accepts both spellings.

Perhaps it is time to buy or subscribe to a new Australian style guide. After all, the one I have is ten years old. A website that details recent changes to accepted Australian English would also be very handy.   


Anthony J. Langford said...

Interesting post Graham. May be no correct answer. Personally I think we should hang on to the traditional English spelling rather than the more American ones. They have enough influence over the internet and literature as it is.

Is that ok?

Mozette said...

Being Australian, I am hanging onto the old traditional way of spelling all of my words; no matter how much the Americanised our spelling is becoming. My niece - who is an Aussie - started her own language where she spelled every word with a lot of accented 'U's and 'Z's and it looked very Latin instead of English has found it difficult to get the hang of spelling now she's in high school. I did advise her to be careful about inventing her own language and becoming too immersed in it too much at such an early age (she was 10 or 11 when she invented her language; but at that age you can't tell kids).

I write all my stories and books with Australian spelling, comment on others sites, blogs and forums with the Australian/British spelling as well, and yet I still get pulled up by Americans who think I'm spelling words wrong, that my tenses are wrong, the way I write is wrong... and it's not me, but yet it's not them either. It's how we're brought up and what we use to spell in the way of dictionaries and thesaurus'.

I'm not saying I'm right or wrong with my spelling, however, I'm writing the way I write because of where I come from... not because I wish to conform with the American way of taking over our lives. I'm sticking with my spelling traditions because my teachers taught me to spell and I'm making sure their work and guidance isn't lost.

Graham Clements said...

Anthony and Mozette,

I prefer the traditional spellings, especially of okay: OK just looks like a text abbreviation to me. But change happens and if publishers and editors want color, OK and realize, then that is what I will give them, just as long as I KNOW that is what they want.