My Flyer Is Your Flier

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.

Lynn
Syntax Training

26 COMMENTS

  1. What I learned most from this post was using tact to respond to a “correction.”

    Dan’s suggestion had the right tone and purpose: “a friendly tip.”

    And even though you weren’t wrong, you revealed the value of Dan’s suggestion, using it to illustrate differences among style manuals.

    To answer the question, I think I prefer “flyer,” probably because I’ve seen it more often.

  2. We received the same question recently from an eTips subscriber (UpWritePress.com/eTips). One comment I’d add here is that although Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t specifically address flier/flyer, it does recommend (1) consulting the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, and (2) using the first option of any spelling variants in a listing.

    Checking both “flier” and “flyer” in that dictionary, we find “flyer” listed as a variant of “flier.” So in US English, we’d always opt for “flier.” Interestingly, the Oxford English Dictionary seems to list “flier” as primary, as well.

    Our conclusion is that either is correct, though “flier” is preferred. Most importantly, of course, a document should use the same throughout.

    Cheers!

  3. Hi, Alfredo. Thank you for pointing out the communication aspects of this topic, looking at the positive side.

    Seeing a word more frequently does make one prefer it. Your comment has given me an idea for another blog post. Thank you!

    Lynn

  4. Lester, thank you for your excellent information and your gracious way of communicating it.

    Your point about CHICAGO and MERRIAM-WEBSTER is valuable. I am the boss in a very small company, so I can choose my preferred words. But people who work in large companies do need a dictionary and a style manual to serve as referees in their word-choice arguments. If they were all to follow their preferences, there would be no consistency within and among their shared documents.

    I appreciate your comments!

    Lynn

  5. As to “preference,” being steeped in British literature since childhood, I’m personally fonder of “flyer,” and prefer “grey” to “gray,” though “labour” and “colour” could do without the “u.” 🙂

  6. I fought this battle for a while with staff members who preferred “flyer” over my choice, “flier.” Finally, I gave in. Now, “flier” reads like “fleer” to me, like “pier.”

  7. I prefer “flyer”. It looks better and, like Dave above, I am tempted to read “flier” as “fleer” (that’s how it would be read were it my native German)

  8. It seems as though many of us like the look of “flyer.” Perhaps our version will become everyone’s first choice.

    Nigel, remember that you can set your MS Word to automatically correct spellings. So if you prefer “analyse” to “analyze” for a British or Canadian audience, just create an AutoCorrect entry.

    Lynn

  9. I always check in with Google for this kind of data, specifically using their search engine keyword tool. The local search results (in California) are as follows: flyer design: 18,000; flier design: 390. Interestingly, adding an “s” to design produces almost flip-flopped keyword results: flyer designs: 3,600; flier designs: 22,200.

  10. I go to the University of Dayton, and we are the Flyers. And I hang up fliers for campus events. It sounds weird to spell it ‘flyers’, I feel like I’m hanging up my mascot…

  11. We Canadians don’t use S as the British do in words such as analyze and realize, but we do use an S in words such as licence and practice to distinguish verb from noun (as everyone does with advise/advice).

    As for the flyer issue, I prefer the Y spelling for sure.

  12. Hmm, how interesting that many of us prefer the spelling of a word due to aesthetics. It’s not surprising, really, given that we human beings are very visually-aware creatures and tend to prefer more symmetrical or balanced shapes. I’m a graphic designer and I was tweaking my resume while OpenOffice pointed out my word of “flyers” as a misspelling, so I did a little research and came here. It might seem like a little overkill for me to worry about a single word on a resume, but impressions mean everything, do they not? I can only hope prospective employees agree with my using of “flyers” as opposed to “fliers.”

  13. Hi, Gabe. Our preferences are indeed visual. When I was a little girl, books I read referred to the color “grey.” But in school a teacher corrected my spelling to “gray.” I thought the color looked more “grey” than “gray” but lost the battle.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Lynn

  14. I’ve just stumbled across your site (I’m about to prepare some Christmas fl_ers). What interesting reading, and lots more links when I have time. Needless to say, I’ve made it a favoUrite ! 😉 Suzanne, France
    PS. I’ve settled on ‘flyer’.

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