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I came accross the following sentence:

There will be 110 personnel in the store on launch.

Is it better to phrase it like so:

There will be 110 persons in the store on launch.

Which of the two is correct?

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You mean "lunch"? – Alenanno Apr 19 '11 at 19:15
@Alenanno. No. I meant launch. When a store is about to be launched- there will be more employees than normal. Launch not lunch :-) – leon Apr 19 '11 at 19:19
Ah I got it :) – Alenanno Apr 19 '11 at 19:35
up vote 8 down vote accepted

From Random House:

Some usage guides object to the use of personnel as a plural. However, this use is well established and standard in all varieties of speech and writing. The use of personnel with a preceding number is largely restricted to business and government communications: "Six personnel were transferred".

So, some people will be comfortable using personnel in the way you describe (particularly in business), but others might not be. However, the fact remains that the usage you describe in the question has a strong precedent.

(This is, of course, assuming you are using "personnel" to refer to people who work at the store, and not just any people in the store including customers.)

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Nice. The usage does imply personnel is correct. Persons in this case would be a generalisation of all the memberships in the store. – leon Apr 19 '11 at 19:41

Be careful:

Personnel is not a synonym of "people" or "person".

While person is a general noun that indicates a human being, the personnel is "people employed in an organization or engaged in an organized undertaking such as military service".

And being a plural noun the sentence you saw is perfectly correct.

If instead it refers to people in general being there, you'd want to use "people".

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Thanks. 'People' would be too general in the context- it could mean customers + employees + special guests combined- hence diluting the overall impression of the launch (only 100 people on launch? bleh). – leon Apr 19 '11 at 19:38
Then use personnel, it's perfectly fine in that sentence. :) – Alenanno Apr 19 '11 at 19:42
+1 for clarifying possible confusion. – Andy Apr 19 '11 at 20:13

The use of "personnel" as a plural is perfectly common in business speak. So whether it's appropriate depends on your context. If you're addressing a recruitment company/human resources department, it's perfectly appropriate. Outside of such contexts, it will sound a bit "business jargony" to many people.

It's easy to find ordinary-sounding words ("people", "employees"), so if you're unsure, you can always just use one of these. Saying "110 personnel" rather than "110 staff members" really doesn't buy you very much, as far as I can see. I don't think a human resources department employee will find it jarring if you use the word "employees", but the converse might be true: somebody not used to the HR "lingo" might find "110 personnel" sounds slightly odd.

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Good explanation too. :-) Thanks – leon Apr 19 '11 at 20:44

personnel is a collective noun and therefore doesn't need to be pluralized.

However, in a business context the attachment of a number before personnel is common.

I would personally use something along the lines of,

There will be 110 employees in the store on launch.

110 persons sounds awkward.

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To me- when the store launches- there are extra helpers around- which means there is a difference between an employee and a helper. There are also special guests invited for the event (who can be seen to 'belong' to the store and separate from customers). Therefore, the word 'employees' implies- under the store's payroll but personnel can be a generalization of all persons 'belonging to the store'. – leon Apr 19 '11 at 19:33
I won't go too much further with this, but just for the sake of nuance... an employee, according to Random House, is "a person working for another person or a business firm for pay." It says nothing of the duration of time. 'Temp' or 'temporary employee' could be used in place of helper. – gbutters Apr 19 '11 at 20:02

I'd phrase as "There will be a staff of 110 employees when the store is launched." Personnel doesn't sound right; it's one of those abstract collective nouns.

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