"Stationery" Versus "Stationary"

Get a memory trick for remembering the difference.

Mignon Fogarty,
January 29, 2012

One difficult set of words is the two spellings of “stationery”—one word is spelled with an “a” and the other one is spelled with an e. They are pronounced the same, but mean different things. They’re homophones.


Stationery, with an "e," is paper, usually paper that you use for writing letters or notes.

Use the nice stationery to write to your grandmother.

You can remember that it’s spelled with an “e” by thinking that the “e” stands for “e-mail.”

Who writes letters anymore anyway? We’re more likely to write e-mail messages, even to our grandmothers who would probably rather get a paper note. Some e-mail programs have stationery backgrounds you can use, although I don’t like them. They seem cheesy. But I digress. Remember that just as you write e-mail, you write on stationery with an "e."


Stationary means not moving, fixed in one place, still.

Almost every big gym has a row of stationary bikes.

You can remember the spelling of this word by thinking that  when you are stationary, you are often standing. Since “standing” is also spelled with an “a,” the association can remind you to put the second “a” in “stationary.”

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