These two words sound the same, but do they have the same meaning?
The debate between “flier” and “flyer” is an illustration of variant spellings that have evolved in parallel over time. Other examples are:
- Gray and grey
- Traveling and travelling
- Judgment and judgement
While the different forms are often used interchangeably, many writers don’t know that one is usually preferred over the other.
How do you know which one to use? Your style guide may or may not help you; AP prefers “flyer,” for example, while the Chicago Manual is mum. But fear not—you can always count on a dictionary to show standard and alternate spellings.
Like many publishers, TCK relies on Merriam-Wester’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary and its online analog: www.merriam-webster.com. So let’s take a look.
Turns out they’re both correct—in different settings.
Webster’s says that “flier” is the preferred spelling for people or things that fly: airplanes, squirrels, and business travelers.
- I’ve enrolled in a frequent-flier program.
- My mom has always been a nervous flier.
“Flier” also refers to a gamble or risk; it’s generally combined with “take”:
- The team took a flier on the left-handed pitcher despite his spotty record.
- The boss took a flier and hired the inexperienced student.
In the same entry, Webster’s says that “flyer” refers to a leaflet, pamphlet, or circular.
- The theater troupe handed out flyers to advertise their performance.
- The new restaurant mailed flyers to neighboring residents.
Questions? Comments? Profound thoughts? We’d love to hear them. Feel free to enter your remarks below.
Learn more about using words correctly:
- Affect vs. Effect: Word Usage Explained
- Know the Difference: Who or Whom?
- American vs. British Spelling: Orthography and Alternate Spellings of Common Words
- i.e. vs. e.g. Grammar Rules Explained
- Its or It’s: Grammar Explained by an Expert
- Bear with Me or Bare with Me? Proper Grammar Explained by an Editor
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.