Is it Stationery or Stationary?

cat notecards, The Shed
Blank notecards, with the word “pausing” purposely misspelled!
© Pet Scribbles LLC

Stationery versus stationary.

There is a huge difference.

It is bad enough when I see fellow bloggers make this error. It is worse when I see fellow paper goods designers make this mistake. (Ouch!) But it is the worst – and by the I mean I’m this close to calling them out – when I see national retail chains and major online stores make this error. Why is it the worst? Because these major companies have a large number of employees, whether in the home office or in their brick-and-mortar stores. And nobody catches the error? Nobody?

I have been in the paper goods aisle of a nationwide chain of drug stores that had giant professionally-designed signage hanging overhead letting me know I was in the “Stationary” aisle. And just in the past few weeks, I saw a major online home decor site brag about the great deal they were offering on an exclusive line of “stationary.”*

No. no. no. no. And still no.

paper goods
paper that you write on
greeting cards
memo paper

Get the idea? StationERY is a thing. Whereas if something is stationARY, it is immobile, standing still, not moving.

Here’s my tip for remembering which is which:

Stationery with an E goes into an envelope. Think of the E in stationery standing for the word envelope.

If you’re still not sure, well… The only additional tip I can suggest is this:

Think of the letter A in stationary as standing for your backside, which is sitting down and therefore not moving. Your a– is stationary while you are flopped on the couch watching television.

When I told my husband that I was writing a post about this, he said, “Oh, is this like your fuchsia versus fuschia post? Or is this more of a rant?” He knows me too well, and yes this is sort of a rant. But if this post helps even a handful of people remember the difference, I will be thrilled!


*When I stood in that “stationary” aisle – and yes I was standing still at the time – I wondered how nobody caught the error. If nobody from the home office of the retail chain caught it, what about the company that was hired to make the signage? They always have someone assigned to looking at the proofs before printing. And if not them, then what about the employees at the specific store? Nobody?
And when I saw the major online store misspelling stationery more than once, I had to wonder why nobody from the paper goods company which designed the stationery being offered caught the error either, because surely they were excited to see their products featured on the front page of such a major website. Right?


  1. says

    This has always bothered me too! I was told to remember “stationERY” like “papER” with an e-r! But I so agree that when major chains make the mistake it’s terrible! I always gasp! And lord knows, I’ve probably had my share of typos and misspelled words on my blog but these big companies have peeps to proof read things (don’t they?). Thanks for the good rant!

  2. says

    Go get em tiger! What if they are spelling it wrong to let us know that they won’t be moving the aisle? I hate when they move the aisle to a knew spot…annoying. Certainly not as annoying as major retailers posting their grammatical errors for the world to see. He-He you are too funny!


    PS I thought of you today when I posted my daily cat picture…crazy cat ladies unite!!

    • says

      Yeah, that’s what crossed my mind when I stood in that particular aisle that night. Either the aisle wasn’t going to move – or – I could only be in that aisle if I was to remain standing still. I wasn’t sure, and the confusion was unsettling to me. 😉 Glad you’re back from Blogher!

    • says

      Oh my goodness here I am spewing about grammatical errors and I write one in my own comment NEW not knew…don’t judge me 🙂

  3. says

    Good post. I am glad you pointed it out. I have never been a spelling bee and I have to admit that I never noticed the difference between the two words, yikes! lol

  4. says

    What a wonderful post Laura! I love your tips for remembering the difference between the two! I’ve considered doing my own rant on the difference between their/there/they’re – KILLS ME!

  5. says

    I have this same rant. It makes me particularly crazy that people in the business who are trying to sell stationery can’t get it right. I always say if you don’t want your cards to go anywhere keep on calling it stationary, it just might be a self fulfilling prophecy. That said, we all make mistakes sometimes but professionally printed ads and signage is particularly embarrassing. Spelling in general has gone down the tubes and has worsened with the advent of texting. Spellcheck doesn’t work either as there are so many homophones out there. As professionals we need to be just as diligent about how we promote and present our product as we do creating our products. No what I mean? Ha, ha, I know, I know.

    • says

      Karin – first off – please pardon my delay in responding, somehow I missed your comment and just saw it today. Secondly – you are so write…ha ha: I mean right, of course! I do agree that we all make mistakes – I’m as guilty as anyone – but we all agree that we would not hire a plumber who spelled the word as plummer on his business card. Stationery sellers will hopefully take note of this…someday. 😉