Your Stationery Can Be Stationary (But Not The Other Way Around)

Your Stationery Can Be Stationary (But Not The Other Way Around)

The distinction between stationery (pens, pencils, binder clips and other office gear) and stationary (not moving) is the first spelling mnemonic I can recall learning. However you remember it, it’s important to get it right.

Stationery picture from Shutterstock

I was reminded of this common error by Lifehacker’s own Chris Jager, who messed up and used the wrong version in a post last week. As a kid, I was taught that you wrote a lettER with stationERy. The only problem there is that letter writing is on the decline.

Another possible approach is that papER is a kind of stationERy (we’d welcome additional tricks in the comments). Choose the one that works for you. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


  • The PapER/StationERy mnemonic was the one taught to my grade 6 class in 1986. (I remember because my teacher was evil.)

    To go one further: CAR/StationARy.

  • FYI: The story goes that stationery is called stationery because it was the first range of products not to be sold from a horse and cart. It was a “stationary” shop as opposed to a “mobile” shop. Over time more and more products were sold from stationary shops so they decided to change the spelling of the word that represented these products to “stationery”, to avoid confusion (good luck with that). This little story may not be as simple as a good mnemonic, but I might help someone remember the correct spelling in the future.

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