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Is ‘Preorder’ Redundant?

Despite some people's objections that the word "preorder" is redundant, go ahead! Say you are "preordering" your friend's book.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
August 18, 2016

is preorder redundant?

My friend Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, has a new book coming out in March called Word by Word, and I’m looking forward to reading it and I wanted to support her, so I preordered it; and then I tweeted about preordering it, and then I got a comment that I remember getting when I was talking about my own books—that the word preorder is redundant because you can really only order something, that when I click the buy button, I’m ordering, not doing some kind of action that comes before ordering.

How Preordering Helps Authors

I completely get what people mean. I do. But preorder has a different meaning in the publishing world. It specifically means to order a book before its publication date, and besides writing a review, preordering a book is one of the best things you can do to help your author friends because bookstores look at how many preorders a book has when they’re deciding how many order for their stores. 

Preorders can also help a book get on best-seller lists because all those orders that come in during the preorder period get tallied the week the book is launched, and the best-seller lists are based on how many books you sell in one week. So if you have 1,000 preorders and then the week the book is actually launched you sell another 300 books, the sales for that first week are counted as 1,300, not 300, and that could make the difference between getting on a best-seller list and not getting on a best-seller list.

The Word ‘Preorder’ Isn’t New

The word preorder goes back all the way to the 1600s, and the Oxford English Dictionary shows the first modern use to mean “ordering something in advance” in 1937. I’ve only heard the word preorder in a publishing context, but all the citations in the OED are about other things. For example, that 1937 citation talks about preordering furniture for a house that is being built.

A Hyphen in ‘Preorder’ Is Optional

You can write preorder with or without a hyphen. The OED uses a hyphen, but the Merriam-Webster online dictionary does not, and the AP Stylebook recommends against a hyphen.

‘Preorder’: A Legitimate Word With a Specific Meaning

Although preorder isn’t logical, English isn’t always logical, and preorder has developed a specific meaning: “ordering something in advance.” And if you have friends who are authors and you want to support them—preorder their books.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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