It is funny to me how one little letter can change the meaning of a word. “Stationary” and “stationery” have completely different meanings and uses, but I think these words are often used incorrectly.
Stationary (with an “a”) is an adjective that means not moving or incapable of being moved.
Stationery (with an “e”) is a noun that refers to writing paper and envelopes. Of course, these days, I think it’s safe to include those e-mail stationeries that you use in your work life.
- “Choose your writing instrument and card or stationary carefully.”
Answer: Something on which to write? Wrong, it should be stationery.
- “…has a small, lightweight design and may be used as a stationary unit.”
Answer: Something that isn’t going to move? Right. It’s stationary.
- “Users have the ability to select from a wide range of products – co-branded open house flyers, rate sheets, corporate flyers, advertisements, tri-fold brochures, email signatures, business cards, stationery, and much more.”
An easy way to remember the two is to think about this:
- Stationery (with an “e”) is the stuff you write on. Write (ends with an “e”) = writing on stationery.
- Stationary (with an “a”) is something that’s standing still. Stand (with an “a”) = stationary (with an “a”).
By the way, if you haven’t seen this, Grammarly has a fun thing going on Mondays. Search Twitter for #MontoyaMonday. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” It’s a fun way to kill a few minutes if you need a break.
Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire and has a lovely collection of stationery.