"Flier" or "Flyer"?

It's Americans versus Brits.

Mignon Fogarty,
January 3, 2012

flier or flyerThe comments people left prompted me to dig deeper into the "flier/flyer" question, and I discovered it's not as simple as I originally believed. Here is an updated analysis:

Style guides seem to disagree with dictionaries about the proper spelling for handbills: “flier” or “flyer.” Supposedly, “flier” is the American spelling and “flyer” is the British spelling. That’s what Garner’s Modern American Usage claims, and that claim is backed up by the Associated Press (an American organization), which recommends “flier,” and The Economist (a British publication), which recommends “flyer.”

On the other hand, Webster’s Third (an American dictionary) says that the handbill is usually spelled “flyer,” and the Oxford English Dictionary (a dictionary with British roots), says that “flyer” is used in the United States to mean handbill. A Google Books Ngram search shows that “flyer” is more common than “flier” in both British English and American English and that both spellings have coexisted since at least 1800.

What Should You Do? If you’re following Associated Press style, use “flier.” Otherwise, pick the spelling you prefer and use it consistently. (Update: March 24, 2017: The AP Stylebook just announced that they are changing the style from frequent flier to frequent flyer. A handbill is also a flyer.)


Because of frequent-flier programs, most people realize that someone who flies is called a flier, but people are less sure whether papers with information should be called fliers or flyers. In America, we distribute fliers. In Britain, "flyer" is the common spelling.

Remember: If you’re in America, you’re handing out fliers to get people to attend your event or look for your lost dog.

101 Misused WordsGet more tips like this in 101 Misused Words You'll Never Confuse Again:

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