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Personal or Personnel?

What Is the Difference between "Personal" and "Personnel"?

homesitemapA-Z confused words personal or personnel?
"Personal" and "personnel" are easy to confuse because they both relate to people and sound similar.
  • "Personal" means "private" or "individual."
    • She sent you a personal message. correct tick
  • "Personnel" means "staff" or "workforce."
    • How many personnel are on the boat? correct tick
personal or personnel?

More about "Personal" and "Personnel"

The words "personal" and "personnel" sound fairly similar and both derive from the Latin word "personalis" (meaning "personal"). However, their meanings are quite different.

Of note, "personal" is stressed on the first syllable, and "personnel" is stressed on the last syllable. Click to hear how they are pronounced:

Personal

"Personal" is most commonly seen as an adjective. Generally, "personal" means private or individual. Here are four other nuanced meanings:

(1) Affecting or belonging to a specific person (as opposed to someone else)

  • That is my personal bag. correct tick
  • Wisdom is what's left after we've run out of personal opinions. correct tick (Author Cullen Hightower)

(2) Done by or involving a specific person

  • It was his last personal appearance. correct tick
  • My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence. correct tick (British poet Edith Sitwell)

(3) Concerning a specific person's private life or character

  • He keeps his personal life to himself. correct tick
  • I don't think I'm obliged to discuss my personal issues with you. correct tick
  • Nothing endures but personal qualities. correct tick (Poet Walt Whitman)
  • He's the reason why I think confidence is an overrated personal trait. correct tick

(4) Relating to a person's body

  • The biggest issue is his personal hygiene. correct tick
The word "personal" (especially in the plural "personals") is also seen as a noun meaning an advertisement or message in the personal column of a newspaper. Dating adverts are examples of personals.

Personnel

The word "personnel" is usually a noun. "Personnel" is similar in meaning to "staff" (i.e., it denotes the people employed in an organization, business, or service).
  • The equipment is first rate, but we need more personnel. correct tick
  • No, clever personnel do not make good analysts. Trained analysts make good analysts. correct tick
The word "personnel" can also be used as an adjective.
  • We have a personnel issue. correct tick
  • (This means "We have an issue with our staff.")

A Trick to Remember "Personal" and "Personnel"

Let the single "n" of "personal" remind you it's about one person (i.e., private or individual).

Let the double "n" of "personnel" remind you it's about more than one person (i.e., staff or the workforce).
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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