This week we’ll stay on that precision in language train by considering two words that are often erroneously used interchangeably. I’m talking about personal and personnel.
These two words sound the same in spoken English, which leads to their confusion in written English. But the two words are very different. Personal is an adjective meaning of, affecting, or belonging to a particular person. It could also reference a person's private rather than professional life. Personnel, on the other hand, is a noun meaning people employed in an organization or engaged in an undertaking.
No spell checker will tell you whether or not you used the right word. Spell checkers simply compare each word you type with a list. Every word on the list gets passed and every word not on the list gets marked. Both of these words are in that list, but the proper spelling of personal and personnel depends on usage.
The key to using the right word is to examine the structure of the sentence. If the word you need is an adjective, use personal. If the word you need is a noun, use personnel. Here’s a useful mnemonic: Get personal with personnel. Notice the two words appear in alphabetical order; personal comes before personnel. And in this mnemonic sentence, each word plays its proper structural role. Personal is an adjective, and personnel is a noun.
Precision of language can provide that extra level of professionalism which will reflect back on you and your brand in the minds of your audience. That’s why it produces more effective writing. So get personal with personnel. Give proper attention to precision in your language when you write. That will in turn yield a more effective presentation of both you and your brands.