We examine the general nature of nuclear odd-even mass differences by employing neutron and proton mass relations that emphasize these effects. The most recent mass tables are used. The possibility of a neutron excess dependence of the staggering is examined in detail in separate regions defined by the main nuclear shells, and a clear change in this dependency is found at Z=50 for both neutrons and protons. A further separation into odd and even neutron (proton) number produces very accurate local descriptions of the mass differences for each type of nucleons. These odd-even effects are combined into a global phenomenological expression, ready to use in a binding energy formula. The results deviate from previous parametrizations, and in particular found to be significantly superior to a recent two term, A−1 dependence.