English (sidespin) in Pool and Billiards

... how to aim and compensate for various effects when using sidespin (english) in pool.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs),
mostly from the BD CCB and AZB discussion forums

maintained for the book: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards,
the DVD series: The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) and
The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP), the Billiard University (BU),
and the monthly Billiards Digest "Illustrated Principles" instructional articles


for more information, see Chapter 4 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards
and Disc II of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots


backhand english (BHE) and front-hand english (FHE)

How does backhand and front-hand english work?

Backhand english (BHE) and front-hand english (FHE) are aim-and-pivot methods used to adjust one's aim for squirt. For more information and illustrations, see "Squirt - Part IV: BHE, FHE, and pivot-length calibration" (BD, November, 2007). Also, here's a good overall video demonstration from Disc II of The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots:

Here are some other more detailed videos on the topic:

This video shows the effects of bridge length and the amount of squirt of the shaft:

NV B.58 - Mike Page's BHE pivot length demonstration

When using BHE, the bridge length must correspond to the pivot length of the cue, unless you are also compensating for swerve and/or throw.

See also: aim compensation for squirt, swerve, and throw (includes more video demonstrations).

from Patrick Johnson:

BHE = back hand english = setting up for a centerball hit then moving the grip hand (back hand) sideways to apply english and compensate for squirt/swerve at the same time. Works best with higher squirt cues where the "pivot point" is somewhere near the bridge. An approximation that must be fine-tuned by feel.

FHE = front hand english = setting up for a centerball hit then moving the bridge hand (front hand) sideways to apply english and compensate for squirt/swerve at the same time. Works best with lower squirt cues where the "pivot point" is substantially behind the bridge. An approximation that must be fine-tuned by feel.

Parallel english = a bad name ("parallel" doesn't really apply) for simply placing both hands as necessary to apply english and compensate for squirt/swerve. Works with any cue, but is done entirely by feel and can be more of a challenge for some players without the initial approximation provided by BHE or FHE.

All of these are different ways of getting your cue to the same position. Only one cue position will produce the exact shot and spin you want.

Backhand english isn't an exact science - where you place your bridge for the pivot changes from shot to shot depending on how much swerve there is in the shot (which depends on shot length, speed, amount of sidespin, elevation of the cue, cloth cleanliness/age, ball cleanliness/age, even humidity). Backhand english can be a useful technique despite all these variables - it will still get you closer to the correct aim adjustment for any shot, but you'll almost invariably have to make some small additional aim adjustment "by feel".

And here's the kicker: it may or may not be a good thing to know about the "by feel" part of backhand english. Most backhand english users believe (or pretend to believe) that it's an exact adjustment for every shot, which allows their subconscious to make the final adjustment without being confused by "too much thinking". Colin Colenso, on the other hand, makes all the adjustments consciously, even mathematically [for more info, see: aim compensation for squirt, swerve, and throw]. You'll have to decide how to do it for yourself.

Personally, I'm somewhere between the two extremes of "totally by feel" and "Colin Colenso total consciousness". I try to think about all the variables as I'm lining up the shot, to be sure my subconscious has all the data it needs, and then I try to let that all go just before I shoot, getting out of the way of my subconscious for the final aim and stroke refinements

from dr_dave:

I'm with you on this one. I firmly believe in having a complete understanding of all of the effects, to help guide the subconscious. Even "aiming by feel" relies on subconscious understanding, IMO. I like using BHE as a starting point, especially for short and/or fast shots with a near-level cue; but I also use knowledge-based and experience-based "feel" to make adjustments to account for shot speed, shot distance, ball/cloth conditions, and cue elevation (although, I try to avoid english like the plague when cue elevation is required ... unless swerve or masse are the only or best shot options).

from Jal:

... Object balls ... are ... 'thrown' by friction with the cueball during the collision in a direction they normally wouldn't go if you look at the geometry alone. This effect is small when the cueball has a lot of topspin or backspin on it as it arrives at the object ball, and can generally be ignored in these cases. If the cueball doesn't have a lot of topspin or backspin, the throw effect is greater and you'll often enough have to compensate for it. Most players learn to do this subconsciously, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of it.

Speed and distance affect how much the 'cueball' swerves on the way to the object ball. And generally speaking (there are exceptions), speed affects how much the object ball is thrown off its geometrically ideal direction during the collision. Higher speeds actually reduce friction between the balls.

I think an easy way to remember how bridge length adjustments affect the shot when using the backhand pivot method to apply outside english (right sidespin when hitting the object ball on its right side, i.e, cutting it to the left), is that with a typical cut shot, moving your bridge hand back will result in a fuller hit on the object ball, i.e., more (exposed) shaft = more object ball.

The above affects the initial direction of the cueball as it leaves the tip. This is called "squirt", or "deflection" by some. As far as the curved path the cueball subsequently follows (swerve), striking high on the cueball (in addition to the applied english) will generally result in more effective swerve (sideways displacement of the cueball as it reaches the object ball), while striking low will produce less. This is for shots with only a modest distance separating the balls. The opposite can be true with large distances. (Striking low produces more swerve overall, but it happens much more gradually. Thus the term "effective swerve.")

Combining these to sort of auto-compensate when applying outside english using the backhand pivot method then, striking high on the cueball = more exposed shaft when pivoting, low = less. And since greater shot speed reduces effective swerve but doesn't affect squirt (practically speaking), greater speed = less exposed shaft, less shot speed = more. Unfortunately, the latter is an inverse relationship, which isn't as neat and as easy to remember as the other ones. I'll leave it to you to work out these relations for inside english (left sidespin when cutting the object ball to the left, i.e., still hitting the object ball on right side).

As you probably realize, these details (and others) are maybe good to be consciously aware of while developing a feel during practice. But the end goal is for all of this to become second nature.


inside english

Why do some people like to use inside english, even on shots where it is not required for position?

First of all, the type of english is usually dictated by cue ball position requirements for the next shot, so inside english will not always be the right choice. Otherwise, here are some possible reasons to favor inside english (IE) when other english is not required (or when no english is required):

For more information, see "Throw - Part VII: CIT/SIT combo" (BD, February, 2007), the throw resource page, and the squirt, swerve, and throw effects summary page.

 

Why does IE increase throw at small cut angles and decrease throw at larger cut angles?

Let's start with a very small cut angle to the right, but almost straight. With no sidespin, the amount of throw will be very small and to the left slightly. With inside (right) sidespin, the OB will throw to the left a lot more; and with outside (left) sidespin, the CB will throw to the right. So in this case (a small cut angle), inside english obviously increases throw.

With larger cut angles, outside english can create throw either right or left based on whether the amount of english is greater than or less than the "gearing" amount. The following video demonstrates this effect:

HSV B.33 - Outside english gearing, and cut and spin-induced throw
Inside english always throws the OB in the same direction because the spin is in the CIT direction. However, CIT and SIT don't add like some people might think. The following article provides explanations, illustrations, and examples:
"Throw - Part VII: CIT/SIT combo" (BD, February, 2007)

At small cut angles and small amounts of sidespin, the CB and OB sort of stick together during contact. However, at larger cut angles and/or with lots of inside english, the CB is sliding against the OB during contact. Friction (and therefore throw) is less when the sliding speed is greater. That's why throw is actually less when you add inside with a larger cut angle, because spin increases the sliding speed during contact.

The following video demonstrates most of the important throw effects, showing how throw (CIT or SIT) varies with angle, speed, and the amount and direction of spin:

NV B.86 - Cut-induced throw (CIT) and spin-induced throw (SIT), from VEPS IV
For detailed explanations, illustrations, and examples of all throw-related effects, see the article and video links in items 15-36 under the videos here:
squirt, swerve, and throw effects

 

Is inside english a better choice than outside english to limit CB sideways drift on some shots?

See the following two videos that study this effect:

Also see the outside-english CB hold resource page.

 

from Colin Colenso:

Inside english is often useful in taking the CB 2 or 3 rails. Often in these situations it heads for open space into the middle of the table. With a little practice this is quite predictable and leaves a player better next shot options.

For the draw with inside they may be doing this to check (hold) the CB angle off the rail. It may allow them to hit the shot a bit firmer without risking losing the CB, and by hitting it a bit harder, they avoid the risk of leaving whitey too close to the rail.

Also, inside can be very useful in getting the CB down table from say a 3/4 ball shot down the long rail.

Inside has similar throw to rolling follow so long as you don't play it too soft or from too straight on. Advanced players often utilize it. Intermediate players seem to love their OE, whereas advanced players are often weary of it, other than using a touch to gear away the throw, particularly on soft stun shots.

 

Why are inside-english shots more difficult for some people?

from Patrick Johnson:

It's a combination of things:

1. You use it less often (partly because you're not as good with it).
2. You use it for different (often more difficult) shots.
3. You use different spin with it (usually high vs. usually center or low).
4. You hit it at a different speed (usually harder).
5. It's less self-correcting.

Pay attention to these things while practicing inside and outside shots and you'll get better at inside pretty quickly.

A specific suggestion: pay attention to exactly where your stick is pointing on each shot compared with the CB/OB contact points - as you make and miss shots it will help you see the exact differences in how to aim them (it also helps generally to build accurate "shot memory").


maximum english

How can I get more english on the cue ball?

In general, to get maximum english, prepare and chalk a good tip, and hit the cue ball as far left or right of center as you can without miscuing. A striped ball can useful for practice because the width of the stripe is usually half the ball's diameter, and the edges of the stripe border the typical miscue limit (at half the ball's radius from center). Here's a useful illustration of maximum (100%) english:

maximum tip offset stripe-width illustration

For more information, see:

Maximum tip-offset considerations also apply to follow and draw shots. See “How High or Low Should You Hit the Cue Ball?” (BD, September, 2011) for more info.

Now, to achieve the most effect from sidespin (i.e., get the most rebound angle change off a cushion), you want to use a drag shot where you start the CB off with backspin, and the backspin wears off on the way to the cushion. The problem with hitting below center is that you must decrease the amount of sidespin (tip offset) a little. However, because the drag action slows the cue ball while retaining most of the sidespin, the rebound angle will be larger. For more info, see drag follow.

Some people think low-squirt shafts or tip type/brand or other things can help you get significantly more spin on the CB, but this is not the case. For more info see:

 

from Jal:

Sidespin (english) is used on the majority of shots to either control how the cueball comes off a cushion, or to reduce object ball throw (with outside english). In both cases, it is the amount of spin relative to the speed of the cueball that is important - the spin/speed ratio. This is governed nearly totally by tip offset, ie, how far from center tip contact is made. Cue speed and weight have a very slight effect. The heavier and faster the cue, the greater the spin/speed ratio (very slightly).

The factors that govern absolute spin rate, as with force follow and draw shots, have been mentioned (tip offset and cue speed), but just to add this. For any particular player, there is an optimal cue weight, one that produces the most spin, for each particular offset. No one cue will work equally well at all offsets for that player. But the good news is that over a rather broad range of cue weights, there is very little difference between them as far as cueball response. (The reason for this has to do with with the inertia of the player's arm.) Nevertheless, as a general rule, a heavier cue is more efficient at centerball, while a lighter one is more efficient away from centerball (in theory).

I would think that harder tips would be more efficient than softer ones, but some tests done by another poster here, Mike Page, suggest that this might not be the case, that they may be about the same. This is a part of cue efficiency as a whole. I suspect that there is very little difference between the "best' and "worst" cues as far as overall efficiency is concerned.

In brief, the principle factors (and virtually the only factors) are tip offset for spin/speed ratio, and tip offset plus cue speed for absolute spin rate. Having a well-chalked tip in good condition is important too, of course, as it determines how far from center you can hit.

from dr_dave:
Excellent summary!

For people who use "tips of english," tip shape can also affect the amount of spin they apply. See "Squirt - Part VI: tip shape" (BD, January, 2008) article for illustrations and explanations.

For people who want to see the math and physics behind many of Jal's statements above, see TP A.30.


outside english

Should I use outside english to reduce the effects of throw (i.e., "spin the ball in")?

If the exact amount of outside english (OE) (called "gearing" OE) is used for a given cut angle, the will be no throw. Here's a good video demonstration of the effect:

and here are some others:

Throw can vary with cut angle, speed, vertical plane spin, and ball conditions, sometimes resulting in an excessive and unanticipatable amount of throw, called "cling." So it makes sense to try to eliminate all of these uncertainties if possible. But it can be difficult to have a feel for the exact amount of OE to use for different shots; although, this feel can probably be developed fairly easily. As long as one is just a little off with the amount of OE, the amount of throw could still be small enough to be a non-factor. If you want more information, illustrations, and examples of everything mentioned in this paragraph, see the following instructional articles:

"Throw - Part III: follow and draw effects" (BD, October, 2006).
"Throw - Part IV: spin-induced throw" (BD, November, 2006).
"Throw - Part V: SIT speed effects" (BD, December, 2006).
"Throw - Part VI: inside/outside english" (BD, January, 2007).
"Throw - Part VII: CIT/SIT combo" (BD, February, 2007).

Diagram 2 in "Throw - Part VI: inside/outside english" (BD, January, 2007) shows how the amount of english required for "gearing" varies with cut angle. Below is an illustration of an easy way to visualize how much tip offset is required to create a gearing amount of outside english (see TP A.26 for the derivation). The technique is called the 40% rule.

gearing outside english tip offset visualization

Using gearing outside english to eliminate throw as a variable is a good thing (when outside english is an acceptable choice), but the problem is that english also introduces squirt and swerve. Now, if the cue stick is as horizontal as possible (i.e., not elevated), and firm speed is used, swerve won't be much of a factor (but it can be in many pool shots). Concerning squirt, a low-squirt cue can help minimize the effect, and backhand english (or front-hand english) techniques can be used to help compensate. However, for many shots, squirt and swerve effects might require significant compensation. Many factors and effects need to be considered when using english, per the list available here: english effects.

If cling is not much of a concern, and a player has a good feel for throw effects, maybe throw compensation (with aim adjustment) could be more straightforward than squirt/swerve/gearing OE compensation.

If cling is a concern (e.g., if the balls are old, worn, and very dirty with chalk smudges; or if you are pro, where cling on one shot can mean the difference in a match), OE might be appropriate for trying to eliminate throw and possible cling; but you need to be able to judge the required amount of english for all cut angles and be good at judging and compensating for squirt and swerve.

A problem with trying to eliminate throw with gearing OE is that the amount of throw is very sensitive to the exact amount of english when you are close to the "gearing" amount, especially with a stun shot. Therefore, the amount (and direction) of throw can vary quite a bit with small misjudgments and inaccurate application of the gearing amount of english. As demonstrated in HSV B.33, if you have more than the "gearing" amount, the the OB will throw in the direction of the spin (SIT: spin-induced throw); and if you have less than the "gearing" amount, the OB will throw in the cut direction (CIT: cut-induced throw). An argument can actually be made that using inside english is a better approach for dealing with throw. For information about how "gearing" english changes with cut angle, and for lots of illustrated examples, see "Throw - Part VI: inside/outside english" (BD, January, 2007).

Also, OE might not be appropriate for a given shot, based on position play requirements (e.g., to get position on the next shot, inside or no english might be required instead). So it seems one needs to able to compensate for throw anyway to be able to have a full arsenal of shots. Now, if you don't need english for position on a particular shot, this is a moot point.

Outside english can certainly be appropriate when trying to hold the cue ball (sometimes). For more info, see: holding the cue ball.

One thing is for sure: OE (or any english) is probably not the best choice with long-distance thin cuts, where aiming precision is key. Here, a center-ball hit will result in the best accuracy and consistency.

from Bob_Jewett:

It's usually impossible to plan a run-out using only outside english, as has already been mentioned. You might have "english freedom" on 20% of your shots. If you're not going to hit a cushion or just barely bounce off a cushion, your side spin doesn't matter, so you are free to use what you will. If you have very good speed control and pattern planning, you might use the cushion on less than half your shots.

The main up-side in using outside english is that it eliminates throw and skid which come from ball-ball friction at the point of contact between the cue ball and object ball. With those eliminated, you are not at the mercy of changing frictional conditions on the shot.

The problem with using this "smooth rolling across the object ball's surface" technique is that it requires a lot of skill and experience to get right. The amount of outside required depends on the cut angle, the distance to the ball, and the amount of draw/follow. As has been pointed out by Dr. Dave, Ron Shepard and others, if you get it wrong by a little the shot can go wrong by a lot.

I think the main factor is on skids. This is also called "cling" and in snooker-playing regions "kick." I think the best name for it is "bad contact." In any case, it seems to be due to chalk at the contact point of cue ball on object ball and it causes large amounts of throw. Some players don't even realize that skid exists and think that when people complain about getting a skid/kick/cling/bad contact they are just trying to make excuses. Skids can happen on maybe 1 shot in 50 to 500 depending on conditions and the sort of shots taken.

So, where is this all going? If a player just flat out misses 30% of the shots he shoots at, he's got no reason to take special, complicated precautions to avoid a 1% problem. At that level he should be working on bringing his stick straight through the middle of the cue ball with maybe a little follow or draw. Nice and smooth and not too hard. Such a player has only a dim notion of squirt, swerve and throw, and probably no knowledge of skid.

On the other hand, if you're Rempe or Sigel or Hohmann, and on a good day you miss only one time in 200 shots attempted, you can't afford to have the object ball skidding off randomly one time in 100.

So the bottom line is that whether you should try to use outside english on the fraction of shots that allow the freedom to use it may well depend on how well you play.

from Patrick Johnson:

I believe the main difference between using inside and outside spin is familiarity. We naturally use outside spin more because (1) the places we want the CB to go are more often in the outside spin direction (because we're usually shooting into a corner) and (2) we can usually hit more softly with outside to move the CB the same distance (because the natural carom angle is usually in the outside spin direction).

This built-in preference for outside spin reinforces false feelings like the "helping english" and "self correcting" myths. In fact, since throw tends to correct for squirt but throw is reduced with outside spin, you have to adjust your aim more with outside than with inside, and a shot with "gearing" english is more sensitive to small spin errors.


rail cut shots

For general advice on how to aim and pocket rail cut shots, see Section 4.06 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards. Also see "VEPS GEMS - Part III: English and Position Control" (BD, March, 2010).

 

How can I control CB direction and still pocket the OB with a rail cut shot?

The answers can be found in the super-slow-motion video clips below, which are listed in order based on how far down-table the cue ball travels. The object ball is pocketed in all of the clips from two diamonds up from the corner pocket.

All of these cases are also presented with graphics and narration on the HSV DVD.

Here are some demonstrations from Disc II of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots that shows some examples:

For many examples and explanations of how to judge fouls with rail cut shots, see:

 

Is it possible to overcut an OB frozen to a rail?

Yes. For an example, see:

HSV A.137 - rail cut-shot hitting the rail first, hitting the ball while compressing, fast, with draw and natural (running) english

 

from Patrick Johnson:

the CB contacts the rail a short distance away from the OB and moves toward the OB while in contact with the rail. Maybe it will help to show a "time lapse series" of drawings showing how the CB approaches the OB while in contact with the rail:

1. Initial contact with the rail. The CB's "equivalent straight line path" is the same as it's initial path into the rail.

rail-frozen overcut - part 1

2. Closer to the OB but not yet in contact with it. The CB's "equivalent straight line path" has changed, but the CB is still moving into and compressing the rail.

rail-frozen overcut - part 2

3. Contact with the OB. The CB's "equivalent straight line path" has changed more, but the CB is still moving into and compressing the rail.

rail-frozen overcut - part 3

 


spin axis "flip" demonstration

When you hit a striped ball with bottom-left english, and the stripe is initially aligned with the english direction, the stripe appears to "flip" during the shot. How does this work?

The following video demonstrates and explains (with the help of high-speed video) how the spin axis changes as drag converts bottom spin to forward roll, while english persists. Here it is:

Check it out and give it a try. It's a cool visual demo.


"Spin," "slide," and "roll"

What is the difference between "sliding" and "rolling", and can a ball "roll" when it has sidespin?

Good descriptions and demonstrations and "sliding" vs. "rolling" can be found here: normal roll, maximum offset, and overspin and cloth and cue ball effects. When a ball is sliding, drag action eventually converts bottom spin to stun and then to forward roll.

A ball starting out with pure sidespin and no top or bottom spin (i.e., stun) slides at first but immediately starts to develop forward roll due to sliding friction. See the spin axis "flip" demonstration for a good illustration of this. Once full roll develops, there is no longer any sliding. At that point, the ball continues to roll forward with sidespin. Both the forward speed and spin gradually slow due to rolling and spin resistance.

If a ball were rolling on an inked surface, the ink trace on the ball would be a circle. If the ball is rolling with no sidespin, the circle is vertical and goes around the full circumference ("great circle") of the ball. If the ball is rolling with sidespin, the circle is smaller and tilted. With more sidespin and/or less forward speed, the circle is smaller and more tilted. A ball with lots of spin and very little forward roll would trace a very small circle. A ball spinning in place traces a point (the smallest possible circle). Every "rolling" ball traces a circle, and as the sidespin wears off, the circle size and tilt angle change.

See OB "swerve" and "turn" for an explanation and demonstrations of how and why a ball rolling with sidespin travels in a straight line.

from Patrick Johnson (paraphrasing Mike Page):

Imagine that there's a cylinder (like a barrel) exactly the right size so that it's just contained within the ball. The cylinder/barrel's top and bottom edges meet the ball's surface like two latitude lines drawn around a globe in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Now imagine that you've tilted the barrel and are rolling it along the table's surface like you'd roll a barrel on its edge. You can see that the axis of rotation is tilted, and the barrel's bottom edge rolls along the table in a straight line without sliding at all.

Now imagine the ball surrounding the barrel rolling along with it across the table. This is how a ball rolls across the table with sidespin - no sliding, just rolling. If you were to put wet ink on the table it would mark a line around the ball at its "southern latitude" line.

The remaining wrinkle is that as the ball rolls its sidespin wears off and its axis of rotation becomes more and more horizontal. To visualize this, imagine that the tilted barrel within the ball tilts more and more onto its side, and simultaneously becomes fatter and fatter and shorter and shorter, but it continues rolling on its edge (you should be able to visualize doing this with a barrel that changes this way as you roll it). Eventually, when all the sidespin wears off, the fatter, shorter barrel becomes a flat disc rolling vertically on its edge. The wet ink line marked on the ball is actually a spiral that starts as a small tilted latitude and becomes a vertical "great circle" longitude when the ball is rolling normally without sidespin.

 

Can a cue ball have more top spin than actual rolling speed?

Yes, about 25% more. For illustrations and more information, see "Coriolis was brilliant ... but he didn't have a high-speed camera - Part IV: maximum cue tip offset" (BD, October, 2005). See normal roll, maximum offset, and overspin for more information.

There is often much confusion and misinterpretation about the various terms related to spin and english. Here's a good summary of definitions:


terminology and uses

What terms are used to describe different types of spin on the cue ball, and what is english used for?

English or "side" refers to sidespin applied to the cue ball (CB) by hitting left or right of the cue-ball vertical centerline. Proper usage suggests the term "english" is preferable to "English" for describing sidespin, but "English" is also commonly used. See VEPS II - English and Position Control for complete descriptions, illustrations, and demonstrations of all english-related concepts and terminology with shot examples.

Here are the different names used to refer to the type of english:

english (sidespin) terminology

The purpose for sidespin is to alter the path the CB takes when it hits the rail cushions:

english (sidespin) basics

NV 4.25 demonstrates how english can be used to help with position control. An english drill can be helpful in learning to experimenting with all the factors. More drills can be found on VEPP II - Position Control and English. English is also used with throw shots, spin transfer shots, rail cut shots, and masse shots.

English is given different names based on how it is used:

inside and outside english (sidespin)

running and reverse english (sidespin)

For more information on specific topics, see:

Also, the online glossary has definitions of most terms and phrases related to english.

 

from CaliRed:

English to me, is very simple. It is used to describe side spin. Meaning that anything hit a millimeter to the left or right of center ball, is going to be english. It will be left or right english.

Additionally, left or right english can be described with the terms, inside or outside. Inside or outside is determined by where the cueball is, in relation to where ever it's going to hit, whether it be just a rail or a object ball. Inside can also be described as reverse and outside can be described as running. Confused? I'll summarize at the bottom of the cueball pic.

Hopefully the picture below helps describing what I am saying.

english (sidespin) types - part 1

If one was to describe Example 1. They would one of the following....
I hit it with high left
I hit it with top left
I hit it with left follow

Depending on the placement of the balls, they could substitute left with either inside (reverse) or outside (running) and say this.....

I hit it with high inside/outside
I hit it with top inside/outside
I hit it with inside/outside follow

Now if they wanted to be more specific, which is very helpful, they would include a common reference of measurement, "a tip" In all the examples above, if a person wanted to describe exactly what they used, they would inject the number of tips to indicate exactly where to hit the cueball.

In the example, one could say
I hit it with 2 tips of top and 2 tips of left (or inside/outside or running or reverse)
I hit it with 2 tips of follow and 2 tips of left (or inside/outside or running or reverse)

I hit it with I hit it with 2 tips of high and 2 tips of left (or inside/outside or running or reverse)

SUMMARY:

English is only used to describe left or right of the center of the cueball. It is NOT used to describe hitting above or below the center of the cueball. You don't say "I hit it with top english" or "I hit it with bottom english"

english (sidespin) types - part 2

Left or Right english can also be described as inside or outside english.

Inside or outside english can also be described as running or reverse english.

In MOST cases, Inside english is reverse. In MOST cases outside english is running.

When it is not, is pictured in the example below.

english (sidespin) types - part 3

Inside or Reverse english means the cueball is going to die or shorten up after it hits the rail

Outside or running english means the cueball is going to haul ass or lengthen after it hits the rail.

Final Summary!

English is left or right, english is inside or outside, english is running or reverse.

Left can be inside or outside
Left can be running or reverse

Right can be inside or outside
Right can be running or reverse

Inside can also be described as reverse
Outside can also be describe as running

 

How much tip offset is required to create perfectly natural running english, where the CB rolls on the cushion with no sliding motion?

from Patrick Johnson (from AZB post):

natural running english tip-offset visualization

 


"tips of" and percentage english

What does it mean when somebody says "one tip of english"?

"Squirt - Part VI: tip shape" (BD, January, 2008) and "Draw Shot Primer - Part VII: tips of english" (BD, July, 2006) illustrate and explain "tips" of english. "One tip" of english corresponds to shifting the cue one tip-width away from the center of the ball. Because the actual tip offset for "one tip" of english depends on both the tip size and shape, I prefer specifying the amount of english as a percentage instead (100% for maximum english at the miscue limit, 50% at half of maximum).

The illustration below, from the tip shape article, illustrates the difference between "tips of english" and "percentage english:"

tips and percentage english

Some people interpret "tips of english" to actually mean "1/2 tips of english." For them, "1 tip" corresponds to shifting the cue half of the tip's width (from the center of the tip to the edge). Using this scheme, the number of "tips" for the tip size and shape in the diagram above would actually be 0 for 0%, about 3/4 (2 * 0.37) for 25%, 1 1/2 (2 * 0.75) for 50%, and almost 3 (2 * 1.40) for 100%. Below is an illustration of the two common definitions of "tips:"

tips of english

Some people interpret "tips of english" to actually mean "chalk marks." Here's a photo from an AZB post by iusedtoberich showing chalk marks (the round shape a chalked tip leaves on the CB after a hit):

tip marks or contact patches

Chalk mark size can vary with tip hardness and shape, and with shot speed, but the average size is about 5/32" or 4 mm. Maximum english is about 3 to 4 "chalk marks."

A "tip of english" is also sometimes interpreted to mean "the amount of english that creates one diamond of angle change across the table" (i.e., one "diamond of english"). Here's a photo from an AZB post by Patrick Johnson illustrating this interpretation:

tip and diamond correspondence


when to learn

When should someone start learning english (sidespin)?

I don't think a person should spend much time with english until his or her fundamentals and stroke are solid. When deciding to use english seriously, a person should also start learning about all of the effects that need to be taken into consideration. For more info, see aim compensation for squirt, swerve, and throw.

from Bob_Jewett:

As far as the basic knowledge part, I think it is important to discuss that before the beginner starts using side spin. I point out how the side spin can be useful but at the same time I show five major problems with using it: squirt, swerve, throw, miscues and cling/skid/kick/bad contacts, and some of the details of those problems. Most beginners do not fully understand those problems when first introduced to them, but I want them to be aware that problems exist.


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