Word Choice – Disorganized Versus Unorganized

Tracey’s question: “What is the difference between ‘disorganized’ and ‘unorganized’ and when do you properly use them?”

BizWritingTip response: The Old English prefix on- (now spelled un-) was added to words to indicate a reversal of action. The Oxford Dictionary defines organize as “give an orderly structure to, systematize.” Therefore, unorganized means the opposite — not organized or not orderly.

Disorganized has a stronger connotation. It means to “destroy the system or order; throw into confusion.” It indicates a chaotic mode.

Examples
My desk may appear unorganized, but I can find anything I want. (My desk does not seem orderly.)
Her purse is disorganized. It is crammed with receipts, credit cards, snacks, jewellery, paint chips, train schedules, cosmetics, lottery tickets, and the morning paper.

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