It’s amazing to discover that many people misunderstand the difference between “stationery” and “stationary” and often confuse the two words. It’s also amazing to the same multitude that changing an “e” to an “a” can make such a big difference in the definition, but it does!
Read on for the final word on the difference between “stationery” and “stationary.”
Stationery vs. Stationary: What’s the Difference?
These two words, contrary to many people’s thinking, are not interchangeable. In fact, they aren’t even similar in meaning.
Stationery (with an “e”) means writing paper and envelopes, while stationary (with an “a”) means not moving, according to Webster’s Dictionary. According to a Google statistic, the majority of Google searches use the incorrect spelling with an “a” to search for items such as invitations, writing paper, envelopes, fine paper, birth announcements and other “stationery” items.
Many people probably don’t realize they are misspelling the word because when they type “stationary” into the search engine, it often spits back a long list of invitation sites and all things “stationery.” The fact that the searchers aren’t corrected by the search engine probably adds to the confusion, rather than educating searchers on the correct use of the word.
The Importance of Stationery
Stationery is still an important piece of the communication landscape, even with today’s advances in technology that include e-vites, email and text messages. Etiquette continues to dictate that it is considered bad manners for certain types of correspondence to be done in any way other than a handwritten or printed note. For example, thank you notes should always be written after receiving a gift and should always be written on nice thank you card stationery using a pen and your best handwriting. An email thank you note will never substitute one that you physically send in the mail.
Invitations are another evergreen reason to use physical stationery. Although e-vites have gained in popularity, nothing tells guests you’re serious about an event like invitation stationery. E-vites can easily get deleted or lost in an overwhelmed mailbox and forgotten. In contrast, the beauty of an attractive piece of invitation stationery is that it’s much less likely to be forgotten. People pin them to bulletin boards or use a magnet to attach to a refrigerator, especially if it’s an attractive design and deemed an important event to attend, such as a wedding.
Businesses also must rely on stationery to correspond properly with customers, other businesses, prospective customers and vendors. Although a lot of business correspondence is through email, nothing says “I’m in business” like personalized letterhead mailed in a matching envelope printed on nice stationery. Letterhead helps unite a business image and makes their logo and presence better known. Business invitations will also use any logo associated with the business so that all their printed correspondence presents a united front. It’s difficult to do this via e-vites and email because recipients just don’t take these forms of communication as seriously.
Although you tend to remain “stationary” while creating messages on “stationery,” that’s about the closest relationship the two words will ever share. The next time you perform a search while “stationary,” remember to type in “stationery” to access any type of physical correspondence you might need.