As with most words pronounced the same, “drier” and “dryer” are two homophones that cause much confusion for English writers. A “homophone” is a term that refers to words that have the same pronunciation yet different spellings.
These words are especially tricky to use in English writing, as people may have a preconceived notion of the “correct” spelling to use, even if it is wrong. Your use of these words is fine in oral settings, but you should probably clear up confusion when writing them to avoid basic mistakes.
What Do Drier and Dryer Mean?
As a comparative adjective, “drier” describes something less wet and more dry than another thing. It compares the relative moisture levels found in whatever object you are trying to describe. As a helpful tip, if you are thinking of referring to the weather, “drier” is the word you should use.
Take these example sentences as “drier” instances discussing drier air and conditions in materials, such as a much drier climate.
The Silver Spoon’s long grain is appreciably less sticky, and thus drier and harder to work with.—The Guardian
Steffen said the trends of a hotter and drier climate meant bushfire season in southern WA was stretching into spring and autumn, narrowing the window for fire management authorities to safely conduct prescribed burns.—The Guardian
It’s a drier, noisier, smellier experience, filled with white-washed wooden shops, wooden schools, wooden houses and a great, cast-iron market.—The Guardian
Compare this to your clothes dryer or other types of dryers. In comparison, “dryer” acts as a simple noun. It usually describes the home appliance that removes the water from washed loads of laundry. Additionally, when you use dryer with other nouns, it can refer to appliances that dry other things.
For example, you might refer to heat-pump dryers, a condenser dryer, or other instances of today’s dryers like a new hairdryer:
- An official speaks darkly of the possible threat created by countless billions of microchips in devices from cars to household dryers, increasingly networked but largely unsupervised.—The Economist
- P&G pioneered fabric softeners in the 1960s and scented sheets for tumble dryers in the 1970s.—The Economist
- In the dryers, the motor stayed on when the heating element was being turned off to reduce demand, so the drum still turned and the clothes did not crease an important criterion for Whirlpool.—The Economist
How Can You Remember the Difference?
One way to remember the difference between these words is to categorize them. Speaking linguistically, the noun dryer refers to an object, whereas the other drier is a comparison adjective. Thus, if you want to name an object, you should say “dryer.” Similarly, if you are trying to describe the state of something, you should use “drier.”
Drier is also clearly a comparative form of the word dry, making it more clear that you should use drier when making comparisons between a considerable amount of water and the drier climate of a state like Arizona where cactus outnumber most household appliances.
In the end, using these two words can be tricky due to their similarities in spelling and pronunciation. As a final helpful reminder, remember that “Dryers” are helpful tools in the home that use the manufacturer’s moisture sensors to see if liquid has gone through evaporation in the drum.
At that point, the clothes can be described as drier, with slightly different meanings (less moisture) than compared to the common appliances like a hair dryer. While your fabrics could be drier than they are wet, you would never use dryer to describe something, only name something.