A variety of order types are available to you when trading stocks; some guarantee execution, others guarantee price. This brief list describes popular types of trading orders and some of the trading terminology you need to know.

  • Market order: A market order is one that guarantees execution at the current market for the order given its priority in the trading queue (a.k.a., trading book) and the depth of the market.

  • Limit order: A limit order is one that guarantees price, but not execution. When placing a limit on an order, it will be treated like a market order if:

    • When buying, your limit is at or above the current market ask price and there are sufficient contracts to satisfy your order (for example, limit to buy at $2.50 when the asking price is $2.50 or lower).

    • When selling, your limit is at or below the current market bid price and there are sufficient contracts to satisfy your order (for example, limit to buy at $2.50 when the asking price is $2.50 or higher).

  • Stop order: A stop order, also referred to as a stop-loss order, is your risk management tool for trading with discipline. A stop is used to trigger a market order if the option price trades or moves to a certain level: the stop. The stop represents a price less favorable than the current market and is typically used to minimize losses for an existing position.

  • Stop-limit order: A stop-limit order is similar to a regular stop order, but it triggers a limit order instead of market order. While this may sound really appealing, you’re kind of asking a lot in terms of the specific market movement that needs to take place. It may prevent you from exiting an order you need to exit, subjecting you to additional risk. If the stop gets reached, the market is going against you.

  • Duration: The two primary periods of time your order will be in place are

    • The current trading session or following session if the market is closed

    • Until the order is cancelled by you, or the broker clears the order (possibly in 60 days — check with your broker)

  • Cancel or change: If you want to cancel an active order, you do so by submitting a cancel order. Once the instructions are completed, you receive a report notifying you that the order was successfully canceled. It's possible for the order to already have been executed, in which case you receive a report indicating that you were too late to cancel, filled with the execution details. Needless to say, you can’t cancel a market order. Changing an order is a little different than canceling one because you can change an order one of two ways:

    • Cancel the original order, wait for the report confirming the cancellation, and then enter a new order.

    • Submit a cancel/change or replace order, which replaces the existing order with the revised qualifiers unless the original order was already executed. If that happens, the replacement order is canceled.

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