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A World Without "Whom": The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  379 ratings  ·  99 reviews
A World Without "Whom" is Eats, Shoots & Leaves for the internet age, and BuzzFeed global copy chief Emmy Favilla is the witty go-to style guru of webspeak.

As language evolves faster than ever before, what is the future of "correct" writing? When Favilla was tasked with creating a style guide for BuzzFeed, she opted for spelling, grammar, and punctuation guidelines that w
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Bloomsbury USA
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Start your review of A World Without "Whom": The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age
Not to be mistaken for an English-usage manual on par with The Chicago Manual of Style, A World Without "Whom" is all about BuzzFeed's unique usage guide--how it came to be and why it was needed in the first place. Favilla and her fellow copy editors, as part of an online publication that has its finger on the pulse of what's current, found that the traditional Associated Press Stylebook And Libel Manual (APS) didn't fully meet their needs. Favilla initiated the creation of BuzzFeed's usage guid ...more
Neil R. Coulter
Oct 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, editing
The first thing to get out of the way in reviewing A World Without “Whom” is the title itself. Author Emmy Favilla, drawing from her experience as global copy chief of the website BuzzFeed, avers that she hates “whom” and would like it to disappear. “And if you do use whom in conversational speech,” she writes, “you will never see yourself on an invite to a dinner party at my place” (151). But if you search for “whom” on BuzzFeed, you find it in hundreds of articles, the most recent example of w ...more
Bianca Smith
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
John and Hank Green spent a third of a Dear Hank and John episode trying to decide how to spell the colloquial form of casual. Cash would be confused with money. Instead of a 17-minute discussion, they could have just asked BuzzFeed. In growing from clickbait quizzes asking “Which pie are you?” to a massive media platform targeting the most internet savvy, they’ve had to keep a grasp on current language trends. In her new book, A World Without “Whom”, Emmy Favilla discusses how language has chan ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: language, 2017
I enjoy a good language book, and this one was great fun. Despite her breezy, devil-may-care tone, I have a feeling Favilla could quote the rules from various style books until whoever listening drifted into a coma. She doesn't follow all of them, but I like that she knows them.
The author is the Buzzfeed global copy chief and author of their style guide, and her approach makes a lot of sense for online writing—know your audience, follow the rules that exist for clarity, bend or break a bunch of
Dan Toy
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Word nerds rejoice! Favilla's A World Without Whom is the nerdy, compelling, and hilarious guide to grammar/spelling/punctuation the world didn't know it needed (unlike the word "whom," which Favilla posits the world definitely *does not* need). This fast-paced read is filled with in-depth discussions of how, thanks to the internet, language is quickly evolving — and how that's a good thing. (Tbh it's a descriptivist's daydream and a prescriptivist's ammunition — aka fun for all!) While professo ...more
Bill Whalen
Jan 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
A didactic attempt to dumb down the English language. Aimed at those who need to justify their own laziness in learning to write in English -- or those who have tried and failed to write (or speak) properly. Promoting ignorance as our least common denominator -- it's been working in politics and entertainment and mathematics -- now in language.

I didn't finish this book. My hands refused to hold it.
I read this book because I liked the title and I am a nerd. I think Emmy Favilla writes succintly and engagingly about language. I did not necessarily agree with all the calls she made, but I liked that she was fully up front about acknowledging that they are just calls for consistency, not hard and fast rules. The book was more dull than I expected, though; like John Oliver, she relies on humour to be engaging, and this is less compelling than Last Week Tonight. I don't mind either in small dos ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The reason I picked this book up is because I have found myself increasingly irritated by people misusing "whom." More specifically, I am annoyed when people use "whom" to sound fancy when the grammatical option is actually "who."

I am happy to report that Emmy J. Favilla agrees with me:

The worst offense? When whom is used incorrectly, like in the sentence They were not sure whom would do a better job. I understand the confusion here, and the assumption that because they is the subject of the se
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-shelves, arc
In trying to quantify how much of a nerd I am, I feel like one item on the list would be how much genuine fun I had reading A World Without “Whom” and Word by Word this year. I want both Stamper and Favilla to just continue talking about what it’s like to work for a dictionary and as a copy editor pretty much forever, because it is almost endlessly fascinating to me. New dream job: copy editor. A World Without “Whom” is funny and engaging; it’s sure to delight word nerds everywhere.

Reading this
Jonathan Karmel
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a great book! I learned a lot about some things that I imagine copy editors have always grappled with, as well as the particular style of writing that is common in texts and in many sites on the internet.

The theme that runs through this book is that there are certain things that writers ought to be sticklers about: inclusive language that shows respect for and validation of people, and information that's presented accurately and clearly. For everything else, it's all just subjective, so you
Sandra D
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a fun read! I enjoyed discovering the thought process and history behind BuzzFeed's style guide (because nerd!). Emmy gives an insider's look at the unique style issues that come up in BuzzFeed content. She also recognizes that BuzzFeed's style is not for everyone ("you do you," etc.), yet she invites readers (presumably editors) to question the rules we've held onto since grade school, as if the English language hasn't evolved thanks to, y'know, the internet. 10/10 would recommend this boo ...more
Diane Hernandez
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Style guide for the social media generation and those that want to communicate with them.

Based on the Buzzfeed Style Guide ( and written by the same author, A World Without Whom goes further by explaining the whys behind the rules. Emily also pokes fun at herself and fellow copy editors along the way. She states “there is no such thing as correct style. And sometimes there’s no such thing as correct spelling.” Emily understands that words and grammar have
Shannon Whitehead
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, read-2017
I liked this, even as someone who can admittedly be a stickler about language and grammar, always has an opinion about the Oxford comma, and is not 100% down for the social acceptance of run-on sentences. Favilla covered all of these subjects and much more in her book, which is essentially a style guide with a narrator. Reading this is about as much fun as reading a style guide can be if you plan to read it like a regular book; it’s a style guide with funny screenshots and familiar memes scatter ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-teaching
Review of format: The advance electronic galley copy of this book displays inadequately on both my Kindle ebook reader and Android phone. I believe that, unless the book undergoes a major overhaul, it will continue to do so in its final version. If you read using either of these gizmos, you may wish to download the free sample chapter first to see if the display problems are a deal-breaker for you.

On the other hand, it seemed to display well on my iPad. That format, along with old-school paper,
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Written by the global copy cheif of BuzzFeed this is a breezy meditation on how language should be depicted on the internet. As a descriptivist, I was down for Ms. Favilla's various pronouncements and I especially appreciated the chapter: "How not to be a jerk: writing about sensitive topics" and also her tracking the loss of meaning of lol (aka LOL, aka Laughing Out Loud) from it's origins in the early internet era to today's proliferation and loss of meaning.

There's also a handy "terms you sho
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Must-read for writers: How to adapt to language changes and maintain consistency

Language changes and it is difficult to get used to new vocabulary or syntax and this is what the book is about. Emmy J. Favilla, BuzzFeed Copy Chief, in a fun-to-read manner, walks the reader through the changes but I see her main point as consistency in writing, as reflected by a large part of the book being a discussion of the Buzzfeed style guide. Indeed, the book is a great starting point for creating your own s
Danni Green
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was so much fun to read. I felt like I'd slid down a waterslide into a pool of likeminded benevolent grammar nerds, splashing around gleefully while hell-bent on using our shared superpower/affliction to make the world better.

Just a couple things I disagreed with:
- the author advocates for "person-first language" ("person with a disability") over "identity-first language" ("disabled person") which is generally not preferred (while I personally think there are valid uses for both PFL and IF
Sari Mathes
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Language is a dynamic dance and Emmy Favilla knows all the steps. From the archaic and formal waltz with words to the new social media rhythms and improvisational internet jigs, this guide is for both linguists and learners, anyone who notices the nuances of the English language and those advanced second language people who want to really get native-speak down. You'll learn a thing or two and totally enjoy the process!
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
More entertaining than a book on copy-editing has a right to be. BuzzFeed appears to operate on the frontier of incomprehensible language use, which the author spends her life trying to wrestle into sense. I doubt I'll being adopting its voguish neologisms, nor seeing the full stop as passive-aggressive (or aggressive aggressive) but it's intriguing to learn how language is changing.
Wendy Phraner
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book, especially for writers. I love that it is REAL talk. The way we communicate is constantly evolving. This book helps navigate the tricky ways to get your message across without sounding silly, old, or stupid. Now if I can wrangle my lol usage... (and ellipsis.)
Leslie Angel
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I got a big kick out of this book. I enjoyed her writing style; it might be a bit too hip for some. Learned a lot of new terms. Fun. 3.5
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
DNF page 123

Not bad, but I think I overestimated my willingness to read a grammar book from cover to cover, regardless of how many memes it contains.
Cameron Coombe
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by the chief copy editor at BuzzFeed, *A World without ‘Whom’* addresses language in a fast-changing world. The title of the book refers to one of the greatest markers of this change, the use of the word “whom,” often deliberately avoided for its datedness or unconsciously substituted with “who.” Favilla provides an accessible take on various rules regarding spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style that are becoming obsolete in many areas, particularly in internet media such as BuzzFeed ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-for-nerds
I'm not sure where else you could find a comprehensive list of British swearwords; the proper definition of "TL;DR" (too long; didn't read); and the word "Callipygian", which means having a shapely booty. What I got out of this book was that while there are grammar rules in this world, rules were made to be broken, and copy editors often just go with what looks right. Also, anyone who ranks the exclamation mark at the number one punctuation mark is a winner in my book!
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
A fun trip down the internet memory lane! Writing one isn't totally chaotic and there are still rules that govern language that exist ~in the cloud~.
Mary Clare
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review!

In this book, Favilla explores the language changes and trends that have shaped the way we communicate on the internet. As the creator of the BuzzFeed Style Guide, Favilla is uniquely positioned to detail the unique, pliable language of the internet. And she does so with lovely humor and a motto that seems to be "do what you want".

My experience with language on the internet is a combination of struggling to keep up and making stuff up to get my point across. Over all, I have come to
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was just pretty boring. Much of it was obvious things, and others was the bending-over-backward-not-to-offend-anyone annoying stuff Buzzfeed does. As a person with mental illness I don't care if you say "mentally ill people" instead of "people with mental illness". I'm over this tiptoeing around crap.
But mostly this just wasn't interesting.
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was absolutely hilarious.

Would I actually use what it says as a reference for how I use grammar? heck no. Was it comprehensive? not quite. Did most of the stylistic choices recommended here come from the author's own opinion? absolutely, and I definitely did not agree personally with all her takes. But it was a thorough discussion on elements of grammatical style and what's acceptable in the modern age in both formal(er) writing and, especially as the book progressed, internet slang and the
Adrian Durlester
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been a grammar wonk all my life. I go back and correct my own Facebook posts, Tweets, and even send corrections in text messages. I've edited the work of others. Using proper grammar was important to me. I was what Favilla would call a prescriptivist. No more. This light-hearted yet momentous book has finally swayed me into becoming a member of the descriptivist camp. I will probably continue to correct my own work, and to share corrections of the work of others with them. I'll probably con ...more
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like reading about language. I also tend to be a rule follower. The first sixth of this book had me on edge. Favilla seemed like she wanted to throw all the rules out, just because tumblr and twitter users don't use them. But as I read, I realized that the situation was much more nuanced than that. By halfway through the book, I was hanging on her every word. Sometimes it's quirky--her decisions about what should or shouldn't be a rule. But that's what someone in her position is supposed to do ...more
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