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Old 06 February 2009, 07:38 PM
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Ponder GM changed "employee" to "employe"

From 1988 to 1993, I worked for Electronic Data Systems which had been
founded by H. Ross Perot and sold to General Motors.

I remember a GM initiative to change the spelling of the word "employee"
to "employe". The rationale was that such a change would save millions of
dollars as employees used less time to type letters and documents, reduce
the amount of paper and ink used for printing, etc. Remember that GM was
revolutionary for its time and motion studies when the auto industry was
still in its late infancy.

Of course, what happened was that it cost more to distribute the policy.
And inevitably, one would "misspell" the word, have to back space or get
out the liquid paper to remove the offending "e" and then continue, taking
more time than it would have to spell the word the conventional.

Unfortunately, I did not save anything that had the GM policy about the
"correct" spelling of the word "employee". I was telling a friend about
this and he looked at me like I was crazy. I searched your database and
didn't find any mention of this story. It is particularly timely as we talk
about bailouts or even (gasp!) the bankruptcy of moribund auto companies.
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  #2  
Old 06 February 2009, 07:46 PM
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There is a similar story about the state government here. Many statutes use the spelling "employe." The story I heard was that it was a cost-saving measure intended to make the statute books shorter and less expensive to print. I have no idea if that is the true reason, although I would not be surprised.

I have not heard in the version here the unintended consequences part that is attached to the GM story though.

erwins
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Old 06 February 2009, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
There is a similar story about the state government here. Many statutes use the spelling "employe." The story I heard was that it was a cost-saving measure intended to make the statute books shorter and less expensive to print.
I have a brilliant idea: just don't use articles. That'd lighten those puppies right up!

Quote:
I have no idea if that is the true reason, although I would not be surprised.
Why wouldn't you be surprised? The story is pretty ridiculous on its face. How many replacements of "employee" with "employe" would it take to make an actual difference in the cost of printing manuals? If someone is doing those sorts of cost-benefit analyses, someone has lost the plot a long way back.
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Old 06 February 2009, 08:33 PM
ULTRAGOTHA ULTRAGOTHA is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
I remember a GM initiative to change the spelling of the word "employee" to "employe".
I have in my lap at this minute a copy of the GM Writing Style Guide--The complete reference book that helps GM people write and process information effectively. Developed by General Motors and Shipley Associates. Copyright (c) 1986 by Shipley Associates (Original edition 1985) All rights Reserved.


Page xiii starts out:
Quote:
The General Motors Writing Style Guide is for all GM employes who need practical answers to questions about writing in the world of work.
Later on the page we have:
Quote:
One way GM employes have improved their writing skills is by taking training courses.
On page 188 under a "list of comon spelling demons" is "employe".

Sigh. So sad.
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Old 07 February 2009, 12:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnglRdr View Post
Why wouldn't you be surprised? The story is pretty ridiculous on its face. How many replacements of "employee" with "employe" would it take to make an actual difference in the cost of printing manuals? If someone is doing those sorts of cost-benefit analyses, someone has lost the plot a long way back.
Because if true, it was done by the state legislature. I'm not saying an actual cost/benefit analysis was done. I'm saying it could certainly have sounded like a good idea to the legislature, and they could have put the rule in place thinking they were doing something that would save the state money. Remember, the Indiana house once passed a bill to make pi=3.2.

erwins

Last edited by erwins; 07 February 2009 at 12:24 AM.
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  #6  
Old 07 February 2009, 12:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ULTRAGOTHA View Post
I have in my lap at this minute a copy of the GM Writing Style Guide--The complete reference book that helps GM people write and process information effectively. Developed by General Motors and Shipley Associates. Copyright (c) 1986 by Shipley Associates (Original edition 1985) All rights Reserved.
Page xiii starts out:
Later on the page we have:
On page 188 under a "list of comon spelling demons" is "employe".
Sigh. So sad.
+1..

While i do not have this book, GM is my customer.. and i had to take a two week class at the begining of the contract in GM communications.

Also, due to me being Canadian, i had to take a class on how to speak "American". I can't say "route" as "root" -- it has to be said "row-et" etc etc ..
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Old 07 February 2009, 02:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Not_Done_Living View Post
Also, due to me being Canadian, i had to take a class on how to speak "American". I can't say "route" as "root" -- it has to be said "row-et" etc etc ..
The hell? Lifelong USian, and I've heard only 2 pronunciations- root and rout, as in a military defeat.
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Old 07 February 2009, 02:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Not_Done_Living View Post
+1..

While i do not have this book, GM is my customer.. and i had to take a two week class at the begining of the contract in GM communications.

Also, due to me being Canadian, i had to take a class on how to speak "American". I can't say "route" as "root" -- it has to be said "row-et" etc etc ..
WHA? I say "root." Of course, I was born and lived up north so maybe I was Canadianized as a young'un.
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Old 07 February 2009, 02:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
Because if true, it was done by the state legislature. I'm not saying an actual cost/benefit analysis was done. I'm saying it could certainly have sounded like a good idea to the legislature, and they could have put the rule in place thinking they were doing something that would save the state money. Remember, the Indiana house once passed a bill to make pi=3.2.

erwins
Well, it is one thing for a legislature to pass a resolution saying that the terminal e in "employee" should be eliminated when writing state documens in order to save printing costs, but it is another thing for that to actually come to fruition. State legislatures rarely involve themselves with writing policy manuals for state agencies.

And the pi thing, well, it happened in 1897, and it only passed in the house, but never passed in the senate.
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Old 07 February 2009, 02:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
There is a similar story about the state government here. Many statutes use the spelling "employe." The story I heard was that it was a cost-saving measure intended to make the statute books shorter and less expensive to print. I have no idea if that is the true reason, although I would not be surprised.

I have not heard in the version here the unintended consequences part that is attached to the GM story though.

erwins
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnglRdr View Post
Well, it is one thing for a legislature to pass a resolution saying that the terminal e in "employee" should be eliminated when writing state documens in order to save printing costs, but it is another thing for that to actually come to fruition. State legislatures rarely involve themselves with writing policy manuals for state agencies.
All bolding mine. I never said anything about all state documents, or policy manuals for state agencies. The legislature is very intimately involved, however, in how the laws it passes are codified into statutes, which are then printed into statute books.

Quote:
And the pi thing, well, it happened in 1897, and it only passed in the house, but never passed in the senate.
I know (I said the Indiana house passed it). It was just an example that sprang to mind. Are you surprised when a state legislature passes a law with insufficient or illogical justifications? I'm not.

erwins
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Old 07 February 2009, 01:09 PM
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********BREAKING NEWS REPORT**********

Automaker GM announced today that in a further cost-cutting initiative, it has changed its name to G. Company representatives report that this go-green measure will save G thousands of dollars in electricity from the reduced size of the illuminated company logos at their plants nationwide.

Men"goo-OOO GREEN!"olly

Ahem, for those of you who did not know, this is purely fictional, for entertainment purposes only. In other words, it's a joke.

Last edited by Menolly; 07 February 2009 at 01:14 PM.
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  #12  
Old 07 February 2009, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ULTRAGOTHA View Post
On page 188 under a "list of comon spelling demons" is "employe".

Sigh. So sad.
So... you think it was deliberate and for those reasons, then? It seems so arbitrary. Why not change "the" to "te" and "and" to "nd" and so on? I don't think those substitutions introduce any extra ambiguity and they'll surely save far more letters. Or have they changed other words too, hence "comon"?

As you said, it surely must take as much time to remember to correct all the "mistakes" as it would just to type "employee" in the first place. And surely the paper saving isn't signifcant - are there no line or paragraph breaks in this document or something?

(This post took longer than usual because I'm on a qwertz kezboard - see? - with the punctuation in the wrong places. I'd get used to it quickly but why force a similar change?)
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Old 07 February 2009, 04:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
So... you think it was deliberate and for those reasons, then?
Obviously it was deliberate, or it wouldn't be in their official style guide. I've no idea of the reasons, though. I just happen to have a copy of the GM Style Guide and can confirm for snopes that in 1986 they were spelling it "employe". God knows why. I think it's idiotic.

(Which is sad and odd, as the style guide otherwise is rather useful. Which is why I've kept my copy all these years long after I no longer had official need of it. Strunk and White it aint, but it's not a bad style guide overall.)



Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
As you said, it surely must take as much time to remember to correct all the "mistakes" as it would just to type "employee" in the first place.
That was AnglRdr, not me. Though I agree with her that it wouldn't save any time at all. It's taken me considerable effort to spell employe without the extra e in this thread.
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Old 07 February 2009, 05:30 PM
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It bears noting that in the United States, at least, "employe" was not an uncommon form of "employee" in the first half of the last century. It persisted into the last half as well. (Both spellings derive from "employ" and it's not too difficult to see how this could be transformed into an accent-less form.)

It's possible that snopes's correspondent's recollection of a GM directive to spell "employee" as "employe" may have simply been a reflection of the company's preference of a form that may have been a holdover from earlier corporate times. (Still, that the company used "employe" as a cost-saving measure makes for an amusing anecdote, though of obviously questionable validity.)

Bonnie "f u cn rd ths u cn bcm an engr n gt a gd jb" Taylor
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Old 07 February 2009, 05:40 PM
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Here is a CTA transit map from 1948 that uses the spelling "employe" (scroll down to the 4th image). On each CTA train car, there is a sign listing the penalties for assaulting CTA passengers and employees. Until at least the mid-90s, the signs used the spelling "employe". I'll see if I can find an image.
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Old 07 February 2009, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
Because if true, it was done by the state legislature. I'm not saying an actual cost/benefit analysis was done. I'm saying it could certainly have sounded like a good idea to the legislature, and they could have put the rule in place thinking they were doing something that would save the state money. Remember, the Indiana house once passed a bill to make pi=3.2.

erwins
When I learned to type (in the days of manual typewriters), we learned to type two spaces at the end of a sentence. Years later, when I was working for a company that wrote manuals for the US Army, they handed down a directive to eliminate the double spacing after the end of the sentence as it would save many dollars in paper for printing if all the manuals followed this directive.

This has since become fairly standard in the tech manual industry, to the point where some companies have disabled the double space in the software or run a script to remove two spaces in a row.

Just sayin'.
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Old 07 February 2009, 07:48 PM
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I also recall seeing the term "employe" in a lot of really early Supreme Court cases on labor law, in the early 20th century.
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Old 07 February 2009, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Daphodil View Post
This has since become fairly standard in the tech manual industry, to the point where some companies have disabled the double space in the software or run a script to remove two spaces in a row.
Isn't that more because it potentially screws up the formatting? Style and content are supposed to be separate, and there may be quite different people designing the stylesheets than writing the text. If there's some reason to make the spacing at the end of lines consistent in the stylesheet, then it'll be messed up if some of those writing the text use a single space and others a double space and the formatting doesn't eliminate that or deal with it. I guess if you're being really strict, you'd insert an end-of-line spacer markup rather than an actual space but a full stop / period followed by a single space should be enough in practice that formatting software can recognise it.

I've never heard of its being to do with saving paper... again, just because that's surely quite a silly reason to do it, if you think about it.
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Old 07 February 2009, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
Isn't that more because it potentially screws up the formatting? Style and content are supposed to be separate, and there may be quite different people designing the stylesheets than writing the text. If there's some reason to make the spacing at the end of lines consistent in the stylesheet, then it'll be messed up if some of those writing the text use a single space and others a double space and the formatting doesn't eliminate that or deal with it. I guess if you're being really strict, you'd insert an end-of-line spacer markup rather than an actual space but a full stop / period followed by a single space should be enough in practice that formatting software can recognise it.

I've never heard of its being to do with saving paper... again, just because that's surely quite a silly reason to do it, if you think about it.
This was in the days before style sheets - we were typing with our fancy IBM Selectrics. For today's technology I agree with you, it's a format thing.
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Old 08 February 2009, 03:59 PM
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Randomly inspected General Motors Annual Reports dating from 1926 to 1990 show a clear preference for "employe"; "employee" is absent from these corporate publications, which were produced for and distributed to stockholders. For example,
Quote:
EMPLOYES SAVINGS AND INVESTMENT PLAN

[...]

For each dollar put into this fund by an employe the Corporation puts fifty cents into the Employes Investment fund which is credited to the employe over a period of five years.

[From Eighteenth Annual Report of the General Motors Corporation, Year Ended December 31 1926, p. 12.]
GM apparently dropped this longheld preference around 1993,

Quote:
As perhaps definitive proof that GM is indeed out to brush up its image, consider that after almost 90 years the company has officially given up spelling "employee" incorrectly.

For reasons now unknown (though legend puts it down to a cost-cutting measure), the Detroit-based firm has long used "employe". Now, the firm will begin to put the second "e" where it belongs. Why?

"Our correspondence to the outside world creates confusion," says Bruce MacDonald, vice-president of the firm's corporate communications staff, "and often causes outsiders to question our ability to produce quality products if we can't even spell 'employee' in what they view as the correct way."

People familiar with arrogant old GM will recognize in MacDonald's tone the inability to admit it was wrong.

[From "GM finally stops spelling 'employee' without last 'e'," The Toronto Star, 26 June 1993.]
That the company had stuck with "employe" in corporate literature since at least 1926 pretty much puts to rest the following curious report, which unfortuntely must've bolstered the notion that GM had opted for "employe" as a cost-saving measure.

Quote:
Fat isn't the only thing that General Motors is cutting out of the budget. One letter e has gotten the ax as well.

In an effort to save ink, printing expenses and paper, GM has ordered that the word "employee," which ends in two e's in most U.S. classrooms, be spelled "employe" on all GM correspondence.

"We do save one" letter every time the word is used, said GM spokesman John Mueller, but he did not know how much money the practice saves.

According to a newsletter written by Howard Kemp of GM's Delco Products Division in Dayton, Ohio, the decision to use one e was the byproduct of a lawsuit filed in 1983 by an hourly worker.

A secretary responsible for typing reams of correspondence related to the lawsuit suggested that the spelling of the word be shortened.

[From "Even if GM's spelling idea takes hold, we'll never see Le offer a Cheroke for fre," Automotive News, 22 October 1990, p. 8.]
-- Bonnie
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