About The Joy of English


A site about the English language, usage and grammar


What we aim to do here is stand as a reliable place online to find the answers to your language questions. There is so much misinformation out there, a lot of rumo{u}rs and plenty of myths being spouted on forums and message boards that it can be difficult to find correct answers.

Enter, whichenglish.com.

With so many people relying on the web these days rather than books as sources of information, this site aims to fill that gap and give you what you need digitally and free of charge or subscription. Rather than being a commercial site backed by venture capital and an office full of people, whichenglish is run by one editor and an editorial assistant doing this in their spare time.

We hope that you find the answer to your questions and enjoy the site.

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Featured definition

Immigrants are NOT migrants (sic)

Let me dust off the dictionary:


immigrant |ˈimigrənt| noun
a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country
One who or that which immigrates; a person who migrates into a country as a settler.

migrant |ˈmīgrənt| noun
an animal that migrates.
• (also migrant worker) a worker who moves from place to place to do seasonal work.

Read the full article here: immigrants or migrants?



Collins English Dictionary (12th Ed.) 2014

When the people at Collins said they were sending me a copy of their latest dictionary I never could have guessed what a whopping big book it would be. It arrived by courier in a shipping bag as large as a pillow. It is no wonder that it is being touted as "the largest single-volume English dictionary in print".



On first impression it is beautiful. The funky hard-back binding is of embossed black cloth with elegant and contemporary typography front and back, doing away with the pesky paper jackets that only ever wear and tear with time. This provides good grip. It is a great strategy by Collins to depart from the staidness of its competitors by adopting a modern look and feel in the age when everything is screen-based. This is a dictionary that announces its presence on the bookshelf.

Click here to read the full review of Collins English Dictionary 2014



How To Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times (2013)

By Roy Peter Clark
ISBN-13: 978-0-316-20435-4

Little, Brown and Company


"... on the subject of short-order writing for today's online world this book is unsurpassed and likely to be unmatched for a long time to come."


Roy Peter Clark - cover How To Write ShortAmerican Roy Peter Clark is better known at home than abroad but deserves recognition throughout the English-speaking world. I first encountered him when I happened across his book Writing Tools – a fiendishly clever book that blew me away – which I have been recommending ever since. So now, he has a new book entitled How To Write Short and I am dying to know what this book has in store.

Clark begins by stating that he wrote this book to inform a generation of writers who in these fast-paced times ­of blogs and tweets need to write good short writing that “makes us stop, read, and think". The most important messages, he argues, are short, include the key elements and immediate. This can also be achieved without sacrificing literary values. In fact, short writing is nothing new.

Click here to read the full review of How To Write Short



For Who the Bell Tolls (2013)

By David Marsh

"While other books – to borrow from Talking Heads – quickly “Stop Making Sense”, this one walks on stage and makes a whole lot of sense."

David Marsh book For Who the Bell Tolls coverThe market for books about English usage and grammar in particular has in my mind become polarised in the last decade or so between books that tell you off and those that genuinely give encouragement. Something strange has happened. The prescriptive/descriptive views are now Old School. The new paradigm is punitive and … well, plain old helpful. This new release by David Marsh, production editor at the Guardian newspaper since 1996 and editor of its style guide on language and language blogger, is a quirky book written with a genuine passion that is rarely found in grammar books. To say it simply, this is a joy to read.


Click here to read the full review of For Who the Bell Tolls




English Dictionaries

We live in the information age, with iPhones, iPads, computers and laptops, yet books will always be around. As a researcher and writer about the English language, I have compiled the first online version of Dr Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and featured a blog about the Bryce's World's Smallest Dictionary (1890).


Johnson's Dictionary 1755

Click here to browse Dr Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

Johnson's Dictionary full-text online version

Exclusive world first

Whichenglish.com is proud to present the:

Online version of Samuel Johnson's The Dictionary of the English Language (1755) as a full-text version

This is the first time that a full-text version of Johnson's 1755 dictionary has been made available in an HTML format.


The World's Smallest Dictionary on top of an iPhone 4S

Bryce's The Smallest English Dictionary in the World (1890)



Gwynne's Grammar (2013)

By N.M Gwynne

"Steeped in a rectitudinal style that many will find mellifluous but which others will find stultifying"

Gwynne's GrammarGwynne's Grammar is the current darling of the grammar-book scene. Ebury Press republished it in a new format in April this year and it has shot right to the top of the sales charts, much in the way that Eats, Shoots, & Leaves did a decade earlier. Whether or not this book reaches the 5-million mark a la Eats remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: if you liked Eats, Shoots, & Leaves then this book is for you; if, however, you disliked its verboseness then you may have the same feelings towards this book.


Click here to read the full review of Gwynne's Grammar.


EXCLUSIVE Watch the exclusive video interview with N.M Gwynne here.




HBR Guide to: Better Business Writing (2013)

By Bryan A. Garner

"A valuable weapon in every business writer’s arsenal"

Bryan A Garner HBR Guide to Better Business WritingAmerican Bryan A. Garner is a noted lawyer and businessman on the one hand, and a grammarian and lexicographer on the other. His published works include Garner’s Modern American Usage, a book that I personally rate as among the top-five books currently available on English usage, Black’s Law Dictionary and The Elements on Legal Style. He is also a contributor to the esteemed Chicago Manual of Style. He has also trained 150,000 lawyers in the art of written persuasion and effective contract drafting for dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

Garner’s latest book, The Harvard Business Review (HBR) Guide to Better Business Writing, makes the leap from writing for the legal sphere to meeting the needs of the modern business writer. So, what does this new book offer?

Click here to read the full review of HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.



The best books about the English language

There are so many books about English out there that it can almost be overwhelming. Apart from my own book, The Joy of English (see link above), here is a selection of some of the best – all of which I have read.


I have begun updating the books section. Here is a small taster of the books being featured, both old and new.