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For example:

  1. “The company told its staff to take Friday off.”
  2. “The company told its staffers to take Friday off.”
  • Do both of these sentences mean exactly the same thing?
  • Is one preferred or maybe less ambiguous than the other?
  • Is there ever a situation where “staff” and “staffers” are not interchangeable?

Edit for clarification:

I am aware that a "staffer" (singular) is a single person while "staff" refers to a group. I'm specifically asking about "staffers" (plural) vs "staff".

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    "Staffer" would normally be considered informal. – Hot Licks Jul 28 '20 at 22:02
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"Staff" and "staffer" are essentially the same, but they are slightly distinct.

"Staff" is defined as:

All the people employed by a particular organization. [Lexico]

Therefore, "staff" is a collective noun (such as "family" or "crew").

"Staffer" is defined as:

A member of the staff of an organization, especially of a newspaper. [Lexico]

Therefore, "staffer" refers to an individual member of a staff.


Once you account for the fact that "staff" is collective (as you did in your sentence), the sentences' meanings are identical. Personally, I would use "staff" because it is much more common [Ngram].

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  • Thanks for the Ngram link. I didn't know about that tool existed. This question started out because I saw a newspaper similar to my 2nd example (using "staffers" instead of "staff") and it felt odd to me, but I couldn't identify why, since was still grammatically correct. When I see the numbers, that feeling makes more sense. – John Knox Jul 29 '20 at 10:17
  • @JohnKnox I just joined this site 3 days ago and, until then, had never heard of an Ngram. They are quite helpful to see which words/phrases are actually used. – user392938 Jul 29 '20 at 15:04
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A staff is a group of persons under command and control of a single person or an aggregate of persons who operate as a unit. A staffer is one member of a staff. Complexity comes into this picture in two ways. If the term "staffers" meant to be inclusive of all members of a staff with no qualifications this would make the use of the two terms interchangeable since they each refer to the entire staff. A reference to some qualification of staffers, such as "full time staffers," etc. would be a different intention. Note that the term "staffers" might also be used to describe a specific job of evaluating, hiring, or denying persons applying for employment or advancement in a company. This use of the term would make all "staffers" taken as a group a staff of, say, the manager of a Human Resource department or division. It is unlikely (perhaps humorously) that such a manager would think of "staffers" as his "staff" and would likely only use the simpler term "staff" to refer to them. For him the two terms would mean the same group of employees. For the head of the company, however, the two terms would mean different groups of employees.

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  • Can you please reformat your answer? It looks like a wall of text which makes it difficult to read. – Decapitated Soul Jul 29 '20 at 7:12
  • So it sounds like "staff" typically means all of the staffers, while "staffers" means some grouping of (potentially including all) of staff. Thanks! Follow up question, and this might be more regional or industry specific, but does "staff"/"staffer" tend to refer to only employees (and not contractors). What about volunteers or any others who work indirectly for a company. – John Knox Jul 29 '20 at 10:25
  • Contractors are should not be considered staff, but they probably are some times. I was a contractor. It has its advantages, like setting your own hours, negtiating deadlines, separate income streams for IRS reporting, etc. But contractors are not employees, and shouldn't show on organization charts. – Gary Labowitz Jul 30 '20 at 14:46
  • to DS: Thanks. You are right. I typically don't send out stuff formatted very well. It IS hard to read. – Gary Labowitz Jul 30 '20 at 14:49

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