Dan sent me an email recently to tell me I had misused a word. He said:
"Just a friendly tip: You used the word flyer on your website. It should be flier."
I appreciate friendly tips, but I resisted Dan's. The reason is that I had researched the options, flyer and flier, and had decided on flyer. I wrote back to Dan with a message as brief as his:
"Hi, Dan. Which style manual do you follow?"
My point was that my choice was not wrong. It was simply not Dan's choice. He replied in more detail:
"AP [The Associated Press Stylebook] — I have a newspaper background. I know it comes down to the style one adopts. I just passed it along. Merriam-Webster prefers flyer, I believe. It might make an interesting blog for you–different words a la different styles."
Dan is right. It is an interesting topic. Let's look at the style guides' pronouncements on flyer/flier:
The AP Stylebook updated its listing in March 2017. According to AP, flyer is the preferred term for a person flying in an aircraft, and for handbills: "He used his frequent flyer miles"; "they put up flyers announcing the show." Use flier in the phrase "take a flier," meaning to take a big risk.
The Gregg Reference Manual says that flier refers to a pilot; flyer is an advertising brochure.
Garner's Modern American Usage says, "Flier is the standard form in American English, flyer being a needless variant. But in British English, flyer is standard."
Canadian Oxford Dictionary says, "Flyer (also flier). A pilot or aviator; a person who flies in an aircraft as a passenger." It adds, "North American: a small advertising leaflet that is widely distributed." Under the entry flier, it says "variant of flyer."
The American Heritage College Dictionary says, "Flier (also flyer). One, such as an insect or bird, that flies with wings. . . . A pamphlet or circular for mass distribution." Under the entry flyer, it says "variant of flier."
Fowler's Modern English Usage says flyer is the recommended form, not flier. Under flier, it says, "In Oxford University Press house style, flyer is recommended for all senses. Perhaps flier is the more common of the two forms in American English."
The Chicago Manual of Style and Microsoft Manual of Style don't cover the topic.
After consulting many of my reference books, I say to Dan, "I prefer flyer."
What's your preference: flier? flyer? It's your choice–both are correct.