No escaping it
Usually the Guardian’s stylebook presents a sensible, informed set of guidelines. It was, therefore, a little discouraging to see this tweet from @guardianstyle:
-ee: something is done to you; -er: you do something; employee or employer but attender, escaper not attendee, escapee http://bit.ly/chZ280
We had an editor at The Sun who held to the same belief, that because –ee indicated the acted upon rather than the actor, escaper was the proper word. And so escapers appeared in our pages until that editor moved on to other things and the dictum was silently abandoned.
Bryan Garner observes that escaper would logically be the correct word, “[but] the life of our language has not followed logic.” He rates escapee as fully acceptable.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage says that escaper, the older word, dating from the early seventeenth century, has been “all but eclipsed by escapee.” (The “scanty evidence” for escaper, it says, is all from British sources.) Escapee dates from the nineteenth century, appearing in Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days, and is now the standard word.