People get worked up about recipe writing on this blog, me included. It used to be that my posts on taking freebies got the most responses, but now my “Most Popular” list (on the right) is mostly about recipes.
So excuse me for pandering to the crowd, but I spent all last week editing recipes written by bloggers, and I’ve got another seven nits to add to my original list of 7 Common Recipe Writing Errors. Here they are:
1. Vague titles. “The Ultimate Cookie” doesn’t tell the reader anything other that, in your opinion, this is a darn good cookie. And so it should be. Why else would you blog about it?
The other issue is SEO. Let’s say your recipe is for Snickerdoodles. If potential readers type “Snickerdoodle recipe” into a search engine, you’re making it more difficult for them to find your post.
2. Incomplete directions. “Toast cumin seeds and grind them.” Unless your readership comprises Indian cooks, they’re probably going to need a few more clues. Remember that your readership is probably less sophisticated in the kitchen than you are, and they don’t want to feel intimidated.
3. Action takes place without vessels or tools. “Beat butter with sugar until creamy.” Where does this action take place? On your countertop? With your hands? Or “Bring cream to a boil.” Missing are: in a bowl, in what size saucepan, over what kind of heat. It’s also useful to mention a stand mixer, electric mixer, or a wooden spoon to help your reader along.
4. Duplicate approximations of timing. If you say it takes “about 3-5 minutes,” you have two approximations. “About” is the first, and the range of time is the second. Use either “3-5 minutes,” or “about 5 minutes.”
5. Too many exclamation points in the headnote and method! OMG! I deleted exclamation points last week until my fingers were sore! Please, by all means, be funny, be exhilarated! Convey your emotions through words, rather than through this one symbol! It gets a little tiring, and you might look like an ditz after a while!
6. Making every step a separate number.
- “Keep warm” does not appear on a numbered line by itself in the method.
- It goes at the end of a paragraph.
- Group your actions based on how to make and complete a particular part of the recipe.
- Otherwise you might end up with 25 numbered actions.
- The recipe will look daunting when it isn’t.
7. Taking too long to get to the point. If your title is “Strawberry Jam,” and the first five paragraphs of your post are about your father’s time in the Navy, the reader’s going to get a little confused. Work in the strawberry jam early on, and then make the connection to the Navy.
© photo courtesy of Ruhlman.com.