There's a Two-Letter Word You Should Never Use in Professional Correspondence—and Nope, It's Not No

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iStock.com/tolgart

Crafting business emails or other professional correspondence can be a tricky balancing act. Should you close an email with "best" or "kind regards"? Are emojis ever acceptable? Is "per my last email" a fair way of calling attention to an overlooked point, or is it a thinly veiled jab at the recipient?

We've previously written about the dangers of using all caps in emails (in summary: don't do it), but there's something else you should be wary of while cranking out a quick note to your boss or colleague. As internet linguist and author Gretchen McCulloch tells the Huffington Post, using "OK" in an email isn't, in fact, OK.

That's because short replies can come off as flippant or passive-aggressive, she explains. The word itself isn't necessarily rude, but the brevity can be problematic. It's far safer to tack another word onto your reply, like "OK, great" or "OK, sounds good." You can throw in an exclamation point to show enthusiasm, but by all means, avoid the dreaded "k."

As a general rule, McCulloch states, "Anything that's shorter can sound curter. Anything that's longer can sound more polite." Oddly enough, even "kk" is preferable to "OK" in McCulloch's eyes because it softens the delivery, in much the same way that "bye-bye" sounds nicer than "bye." This word repetition even has a name for it in linguistics: reduplication.

Of course, there are exceptions, and your correspondence may vary depending on who you are emailing. If your boss or client uses "OK," then it's probably fine for you to use it, too. This technique, called mirroring, is usually a safe bet. "Generally what I try to do in emails is mirror what the other person is doing," McCulloch says. "If I see someone else saying things like "ok cool," I can do something in that family."

If you're looking for a few more pointers to give your emails a boost, check out this guide to email etiquette, as well as the phrases you should never use if you want to get a response.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

1. Apple AirPods Pro; $219

Apple

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Sony

For the listener who likes a traditional over-the-ear headphone, this set by Sony will give you all the same hands-free calling, extended battery power, and Bluetooth connectivity as their tiny earbud counterparts. They have a swivel folding design to make stashing them easy, a built-in microphone for voice commands and calls, and quality 1.18-inch dome drivers for dynamic sound quality.

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Sony

This Sony headphone model stands out for its extra bass and the 30 hours of battery life you get with each charge. And in between your favorite tracks, you can take hands-free calls and go seamlessly back into the music.

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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FenSens

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

8 British Expressions, Explained

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iStock

The British have many delightful and colorful expressions that often make no sense to the rest of the world. Luckily, Christopher J. Moore has decoded a number of them in How to Speak Brit: The Quintessential Guide to the King's English, Cockney Slang, and Other Flummoxing British Phrases. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Load of Cobblers

This phrase, which means "a lot of rubbish or nonsense," has its origin in rhyming slang. The full phrase, Moore writes, is "a load of cobbler's awls," and awls rhymes with ... well, you can probably figure that out. So, don't use this one around anybody respectable.

2. How’s your father?

Brits are all about keeping things proper, so they’ve come up with many fantastic slang terms for referring to stuff that would be considered untoward in polite company. "How’s your father?" is one of these phrases. According to Moore, this turn of the century phrase was probably coined by comedian Harry Tate, who used it to change the subject when something he didn’t want to talk about came up. Eventually, it became slang for sexual activity.

3. All Mouth And No Trousers

Hailing from the north of England, this phrase is “used to describe a man whose sense of self-importance is in inverse proportion to his actual relevance,” Moore writes. The mouth refers to brash talk; trousers, of course, are pants.

4. Bob’s Your Uncle

It means “and there you are!” or “it’s that simple!” According to Moore, it’s thought to have originated in the late 1880s, when Arthur Balfour—nephew of the Victorian Prime Minister Robert Cecil—was appointed to be the Chief Secretary in Ireland though he had no qualifications. “So he got the job purely because Bob was his uncle,” Moore writes. “A nice theory, and no one has come up with anything convincingly better.”

5. By Hook or By Crook

“A very old phrase meaning to use any means possible and bearing no relation to criminals,” Moore writes. First used in the 14th century, it refers to peasants pulling down branches for firewood using either a bill-hook or a shepherd’s crook.

6. On the Pull

Another British slang term for something considered rude to talk about in plain terms. If you’re out at the pub and someone tells you they’re “on the pull,” it means they’re looking for someone to hook up with. Saucy!

7. Spend a Penny

This slang phrase for a visit to the bathroom “comes from the old practice, literally, of having to put a penny in the door of a public bathroom to use it,” Moore writes. It's only appropriate for informal settings, so don’t use it to ask where the restrooms are in a restaurant!

8. Sweet Fanny Adams

It means, essentially, f*** all, and though it sounds delightful, it has a dark historical origin: Fanny Adams was a real person, a child who was murdered and dismembered in 1867; she was nicknamed "Sweet Fanny Adams" during her murderer's trial and execution because of her youth and innocence. Not long after, the Royal Navy introduced tinned meat rations, which the sailors referred to as Sweet Fanny Adams, a reference to the crime. Eventually, Moore writes, “the expression spread into wider use as meaning something of little or no value, and was commonly shortened to Sweet FA. In modern usage the phrase has become crossed with another, more impolite FA, which also means ‘absolutely nothing.’”