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English versus Spin: A common misconception in pool is that any off center hit of the cue ball is some form of english. This is not completely true. Two important things should be noted. Anything along the vertical axis of the cue ball is english. Anything across the horizontal axis is spin. English is always preferred over spin where possible.
The simple difference between english and spin is this: english effects the path of the cue ball immediately after it strikes the object ball. Spin does not effect the path of the cue ball until after it strikes a rail.
English is preferrable because when you strike the cue ball on the vertical axis, you do not introduce torque or deflection to the shot. Where you aim is where the cue ball goes.
Spin is useful for position play but it should be used with greater care. It is most successful on shorter shots with the object ball close to the pockets because the effects of throw or deflection will not be as great.