• 2-minute read
  • 4th November 2014

Word Choice: Stationery vs. Stationary

People often mix up the words ‘stationery’ and ‘stationary’. This is an understandable mistake, since these words sound exactly the same. They are also spelled almost identically.

However, these words also have very different meanings, so learning which is which is essential to avoiding errors in your academic writing. In this post, we set out their definitions and usage.


The word ‘stationery’, spelled with an ‘e’, is a noun meaning ‘materials and tools used for writing’. This includes everything from pens and pencils to printer paper and hole punches.

The term ‘stationery’ should therefore be used in a sentence like this:

I need to buy some new stationery before the start of term.


The word ‘stationary’, spelled with an ‘a’, is an adjective used to describe something which is not in motion or which is never supposed to move. It should be used in sentences like this:

The car was stationary when the motorbike crashed into it.

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It can also be used to mean unchanging or constant, as in the sentence:

The country has a stationary population.

The Difference

The vital thing to remember is that stationery (with an ‘e’) is usually a noun, while ‘stationary’ (with an ‘a’) is an adjective. And remember:

Stationery = Writing equipment and office supplies

Stationary = Not moving

If you would like more advice, or to have a 500-word sample of your work proofread for free, upload your document to Proofread My Essay today!

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