Stationary vs Stationery

So simple for some but so much more confusing for others, this is a little explanation we have put together to help clear it up once and for all by using a simple trick to help you remember which is which:

Stationery and stationary

Come on; confess; don’t be shy!  Who HASN’T got confused over the right context to use the word stationEry or stationAry? 

We’ve all been guilty of making the odd slip up and consequently got it wrong – probably because it’s one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language; one that seems to confuse and confound like no other.  A quick look at Google searches proves this.

So how do we get over the sudden brain freeze that can afflict us when we see, or think about these two words?  How can we be sure to get the spelling right every time; to correctly refer to that which encompasses all things to do with writing, as opposed to that which means bringing a halt to proceedings.  After all, the difference is one teeny tiny letter.  But that one teeny tiny letter brings with it a huge transformation in meaning!

Short and to the point this picture contains a description of which spelling of Stationery to use

Station---y with an E or an A? 

Here’s our definitive, although slightly tongue in cheek, guide to remember when to use which spelling.

Firstly, we believe it’s always useful to understand the derivation of these words.  So, let’s turn to that old, trusted tool, the English Dictionary, for an accurate definition:

STATIONERY is a noun that means devices used for writing, and other office materials – i.e. let’s make sure we have enough office stationery for our meeting.

In short, the word with the ‘e’ covers everything that you write on.  This can include personalised stationery, that means anything from note books, writing paper, correspondence cards, notecards, envelopes, personalised business cards and visiting cards.  As well as everything you write with: including ink pens, biros, felt tips and pencils etc. 

Our top tip for anyone seeking something to do with writing, and a simple way to check whether to use an A or an E in your spelling, is remember:

E for Envelope

Now let’s look at: STATIONARY

This is an adjective used to describe something that’s still, or not moving, or not intending to move – i.e. I’m unmoving (stationary) in a queue.

Obviously being stuck or unmoving is as far away from anything to do with writing as can possibly be!

Our favourite way to remember the right spelling, is to think:

A for Arrrgh

(as in, I’m stuck (stationAry) in traffic!)

So next time you inadvertently find yourself asking Google to look up personalised stationary, i.e. something unmoving, just for you (!), just remember our tips.  You can be confident you’ll become the Stationery vs Stationary ninja – someone who will have the distinguished honour of never making that spelling mistake again!

A joke about the difference between stationery and stationary


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