You Could Look It Up

Q. In two different writers’ group meetings, two writers told me that “OK” should be spelled “okay.” Both said it was because that’s what Chicago Manual of Style calls for, but I can’t find this in CMOS. My training (newspaper, mind you, so AP style) is to use first-listed spelling, and “OK” is first-listed in every dictionary I checked. Has Chicago ever specified “okay,” or are these ladies confusing their publishers’ house styles with that of CMOS?

A. CMOS doesn’t specify, but as it happens, the manual uses “OK” twice (at paragraphs 2.69 and 7.52; paragraph 2.116 doesn’t count) and does not use “okay” at all. The Q&A uses both spellings. (You can learn all this by typing the words into the Search box at CMOS Online.) We follow Merriam-Webster, which puts “OK” as the first spelling—but that does not mean it is preferred. Rather, “okay” is an equal variant (also standard). Your writer friends are misguided, in any case. It’s rarely wrong to use an accepted spelling. Consistency within a document can be assured by using a style sheet.