60-second fix: stationary and stationery

If you already know the difference between stationery and stationary, you’ll probably have felt the urge to indulge yourself in the kind of graffiti pictured, writes Cathy Relf. (No? Just me?)

If you don’t already know the difference, it’s this: stationery refers to writing materials, while stationary means ‘not moving’.

The most frequent mistake people make is to describe writing materials – stationery – as stationary. It’s rare to see the mistake the opposite way around.

If you find it hard to remember the difference, try asking yourself the following question.

Q: What do you call the shop where you buy pens, correction fluid and envelopes?

A: A stationer.

Therefore, pens, correction fluid and envelopes take the same spelling: stationery.

Another way of remembering is:

stationery – e for envelope

stationary – a for at rest

From now on, may your stationery be stationary only when you specifically wish it to be.

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