A Tip for Writing and Editing Recipes in MS-Word

Share:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr

I do a lot of recipe editing in Microsoft Word, both for individuals and publishers. The number one mistake I find is when ingredients are listed out of order, compared to how they’re used in the method.

Before I learned this tip, I drove myself nuts scrolling up and down in Word to check: Did she put the olive oil first? Scroll up, then scroll down. Does the garlic come before or after the Herbs de Provence? Scroll down, then scroll up.

The "Split" feature in MS-Word lets you see two parts of the same file.

Now I use Word’s Split feature so I can see both the ingredients list and the method on my screen. That way I can check the order of ingredients without scrolling like a maniac.

Here’s all you have to do:

1. Open an MS-Word file that has a recipe in it.

2. Under Window in the Toolbar, select Split. You’ll see two parts of one file on your screen. Each section scrolls independently.

3. Position your recipe’s list of ingredients in the top half of the file and the method in the bottom. Voila! Both are visible. Now check that you’ve listed the ingredients in the order you use them, of course.

Got any other tips you’d like to share about recipe editing or using MS-Word? I’d love to read them.

You might also like:

* * *

One little announcement:

If you live in the New York area and are thinking of writing a cookbook, join me and three other cookbook industry professionals at our one-day class, Creating and Selling Your Dream Cookbook, on March 27, 2012.


  1. says

    I had no idea that Word could do that, Dianne! That’s really good to know.

    The manuscript for my second cookbook is due *tomorrow* and, this time around, I wrote the whole thing in a piece of software called Scrivener, which is truly a writer’s dream. I was lucky enough to stumble upon it early in the writing process, so I was able to use it the whole time. I found the entire experience remarkably calmer and less stressful (and not just because it wasn’t my first rodeo). It costs about $40 or so, and it’s worth every single penny.

    Great Word tip!


    • diannejacob says

      Interesting, Nicole. I have heard of this software. Will your publisher be okay if you deliver your manuscript in Scrivener instead of Word? You must be feeling quite column about the deadline if you have time to read my blog.

      • says

        I had asked my editor, and she was very intrigued by the idea of Scrivener (she hadn’t heard of it), but asked me to deliver in Word since she hers are far from the only eyes that will be reviewing the work. That’s the great thing about Scrivener. You can export seamlessly to Word.
        Oh, and about the deadline — I thrive under pressure. I was entitled to at least a 2 week extension, but I didn’t want it. I’d probably waste the time worrying over something that shouldn’t be worried over anyway.


  2. says

    Dianne, I have been using Word for more than ten years, but I get excited every time I learn something new:) This is a great time-saving tip! Thanks:)

    • diannejacob says

      You are welcome, Lana. I bet we have only scratched the surface of what there is to learn in Word. My husband, the tech uber-geek, is my guru.

  3. says

    I did know about split screen but never use it…I should. That would save me lots of scrolling; not just in recipes but in everything!

    Something I learned from you is the double vs. single space at the end of sentences after a period. Single space.

    Or. Double space.

    I am still confused about it because I honestly thought that there were always supposed to be two spaces after periods before starting the next sentence. But in recipe writing, or other types of technical writing, I guess it’s single-space? When writing my blog, I still double space but if it’s supposed to be single space, then I will just do away with double spacing and forget my 7th grade English teacher ever taught me that :)

    • says

      Double space after a period is actually a relic from the typewriter age. I learned it because I learned to type … on an actual typewriter (automatic, thankyouverymuch). My husband is an advertising creative, and he has drilled single-space-after-a-period into my head for enough years that I no longer do it. But it truly took me years before it felt natural to me.

      • says

        Thanks for backing me up in an argument between me and my daughter. We’re starting to do research on service dogs and have been writing several grant proposals. One of the hardest aspects of grant writing is to limit your prose to a specific number of characters. The one space after a period rule really comes in handy, as does my posting on Twitter. Tweeting has taught me limits.

  4. says

    That goes on the ever growing list of “Why didn’t I think of that?” Thank you. That will save me time and annoyance.

    Over here (UK), we still tend to put two spaces after a period and we still use the Oxford comma in lists, too. That’s why it’s called ‘The Old Country’.

    • diannejacob says

      Good. Regarding serial commas, book publishers still use them here as well, even though our country is not as old as yours!

  5. says

    This “split screen” tip is the best thing I’ve learned this year. Just went over to word and gave it a try. Pretty slick! Love your blog, always learn something new.

  6. says

    Who knew? Apparently YOU! This is a fantastic tip! I guess I’ve been in the dark ages with the space(s) after a period. Great learnin’ here Dianne, thanks!

    • says

      I’ve been writing recipes for a book proposal and have been doing a lot of swearing at M. Word. I’m trying to write my recipes in the style of Julia Child in Mastering–ingredients on the left and procedures using the ingredients on the right. I’m not certain that a publisher will be able to print recipes in Julia’s format because it takes up a lot of space, but it sure makes it easy to cook. I’ve had to resort to the table feature in Word, but it’s not anywhere as easy to use as Excel.
      If I can’t use J. Child’s format in the manuscript, I will surely resort to splitting the screen.

      • diannejacob says

        In a proposal, the recipes just follow one another, each starting on a new page. You don’t do anything fancy. Your job is not to present a finished book. It’s up to the book designer and the publisher to decide on the format and length. Once you get to that point in the process, you can weigh in with your thoughts on how you’d like to see a finished recipe.

        • says

          Thanks, Dianne. I am starting a new page for each recipe and understand the limitations of working with a publisher. My only issue is that I can’t bring myself to market anything, design anything, or write anything that I wouldn’t buy myself. That’s why I’m trying to write these recipes in the format that I’ve found is easiest to follow.
          For years I subscribed to and read Gourmet, but I could never understand why they didn’t separate the lists of ingredients from the instructions. At least Bon Appetit does it better.

          • diannejacob says

            If that is really true, you are better suited to self-publish. You give up a lot of control with a traditional publisher.

          • says

            I’ll figure out how to stop being a control freak because I really don’t want to self publish. This time the situation will make the rules and I’ll have to become law abiding.
            Every morning I wake up and something tells me to keep cooking, and keep writing everything down. Not my normal modus operandi but the only one that’ll work.

    • diannejacob says

      And isn’t that annoying? I swear, I am developing calluses. This tip doesn’t eliminate scrolling, but cuts down on it, at least.

    • diannejacob says

      That’s true, its not just for recipes. I use it when I’m editing manuscripts and I want to look something up, as in, “Didn’t she already talk about that on page 15?” With Split, I just save my place and use the top part of the file to see if it’s there.

  7. says

    Oooooh! Great Tip! I use a PC, so clicked to my word doc to look for the window toolbar and there was none. So here is how to do it on the PC.

    1. Click the “view” tab at the top of the PC window.
    2. Select the icon that says “split” on it and click it.
    3. What Diane said.

    BTW, the “split” icon becomes “remove split” for when you want the whole screen back- at least on the PC!

    I’m going to use this RIGHT NOW!!!



    • diannejacob says

      Thank you, Laura. I didn’t think about how this would work on a PC! Doh. And yes, it is important to say that “remove split” puts it back into one file.

  8. says

    That is a very good tip. Thank you. I always get frustrated at work as well when I have to check something against a list in the Tech Memos.
    I will visit the other links today as well, I have many hours to kill at the airport today!

    • diannejacob says

      My pleasure, LoAnn. It’s a treat to present something so simple and easy. I wish I had dozen more tips like that.

  9. Maureen C Berry says

    Thank you for this timely tip Diane. I just landed my first cookbook editing job, although I’m working from a hard copy document, not a Word doc. But now I can use it for my own recipes and the next job(s).

    One of the first things I noticed with this job was that the ingredients were not listed in the order in which they were used. I got that one from your book, thank you very much.

    I was registered for the Creating and Selling Your Dream Cookbook, but had to back out for a family obligation-I’ll be in NY the following weekend for my sister’s 60th birthday. I’m sorry to be missing this workshop and I was looking forward to finally meeting you. I’m sure there will be another event.

    Thanks again.

    • diannejacob says

      Oh too bad, Maureen. I look forward to seeing you another time.

      Congrats on your first cookbook copy editing job. I hope it will be the first of many.

  10. says

    Great tip! I also like to work with dual monitors (many desktop and laptop computers allow this). That way you can work on a document in one monitor, and have notes or an earlier draft of the recipe open in the other monitor. Of course you can have multiple windows open, but all the extra real estate dual monitors offer is really nice.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes, I have a laptop and a monitor above it. That way I do my work on the monitor and keep my social media files open on the laptop. I also use text edit to take notes when I’m editing a manuscript about what I want to tell the author when I send it back.

  11. says

    What a great tip – I never knew you could do that!
    I’m coming to terms with “Pages”, the Apple word processing software – and am on a steep learning curve!

    • diannejacob says

      Yep, and it’s good for long manuscripts, not just recipes. Pages! Why? I guess since publishers and publications tend to expect a Word manuscript, I’ve never worked with anything else except blogging software and the occasional Excel spreadsheet.

  12. says

    That’s a good & easy tip.
    When I have to compare or see anything in 2 (or even 3, 4, 5, or more) files, whether it’s MS Word, PowerPoint or Excel, I usually have each document opened, then ‘right click’ on the task bar at the bottom, select “stack windows vertically” or “show windows side by side” (whichever version, mine is Windows 7).
    This thing works on any browsers, for example if you want websites open on Chrome, Firefox & Internet Explorer side by side; or any other program, say you want to compare photos on ACDSee, MS Office Picture Manager, and MS Paint, or even when you need 10 different folders at the same time.
    You can also have the windows stacked horizontally, or even in cascade form (like steps), say, when you want to be able to see the title of folders one after the other.
    These save a lot of time than resizing manually and arranging the windows ourselves.
    Not sure if I was clear enough, Dianne … but hope this helps :-)

    • says

      sorry, forgot to mention, the ‘taskbar’ is the bar where Start button is located on left & clock/time on the right ……. for the non-techies :)
      and the right click has to be done on the empty area of taskbar … not on the Start button, not in the clock area, not on the file name tab :)

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks. Maybe you’ll use it on the next cookbook, Linda! I’m sure you have another one in you. Although this one took a long time to fruition, eh?

  13. Betina Mariante says

    Dear Diane, good morning!

    I got to know your blog yesterday, and also your book, which I indeed intend to buy! It’b4s fantastic! I’b4m from Brazil, MD, Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist, and very linked to subjetivity and the role of emotional memories in each one’b4s history. From childhood I started to love being in the kitchen with my mother and my gramma, and this is something very deep in my lifestile: cooking is my favorite hobby, besides to writing ficcional and essays. Four years ago I turned to be the owner of a small publishing house, directed to Literature/Culture, Medical Humanities and Lifestile issues. Now
    I’b4m wriing my book on something I do love: subjectivity in food matters, namely, life experientces in which food develops a central role in terms of feelings and perceptions, 5 senses appropriately used anddescribed. My purpose is sharing how kitchen and food may expreess one’b4s subjectivity and life perspectives.I know there’b4s nothing new about that, but I think about explore behaviors and neurobiology attached to food experience. Because of that, I chose to write some recipes on the first person, giving my voice the authorship of the action, to explore the subjectivity in all acts involved in a recipe making. Then I would like to ask you: do you think writing recipes in the first person (I do this, then I do that, I mixture, I prefere to use chocolate instead of…) and in the present is something that can bore readers? I read some issues about Irma Rombauer, but I have not yet received her book from the bookstore, but I read “The Joy of cooking” was written as a first person’b4s work, with her experiences linked to recipes. Is it that way? Do you think this can work for some recipes, exploring the recipe as a personal narrative proccess?
    Thank you! I’b4m so glad to have discovered tour relevant and consistent work on food writing!
    Have a joyful sunday!
    Kind regards,

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Betina,nice to hear from you. It’s kind of novel to write a recipe based on your first person experience vs. the reader’s. It seems like it would not be instructional that way, ex. “I poured the milk into the bowl and added sugar.” I hope I am understanding you correctly.

      • Betina Mariante says

        Hi, Dianne! Thank you very much for your reply. Yes, you got it tthe right way: for three or four of the essays, I tell the recipe as part of the narrative, as if I were telling someone a story in which the recipe is one of the elements. The idea is to explore, in these texts, the “I” in the kitchen, the subjectivity in the act of cooking, preparing a recipe, felling each act done with all the senses and emotions linked to food. I did it for three recipes till now, but I’b4m not sure this could work. I liked your point that this would be not instructional. Maybe this could be a pitfall? I feel the recipe as a story to be told, but I do agree with you that it may not work, if I understood you well. The recipes are shown in the formal way, i.e.ingredients and methods, because of didatic proposals, isn’b4t it?
        My point is that if the main purpose of the book is to present essays on subjectivity linked to cooking, and to present recipes is not the central focus of the book, maybe this idea could be a good resource, or even that way you think I should change my mind?
        Thank you very much!
        Kind regards,
        I bought your book, It will arrive on Thursday!

  14. says

    Dianne, Thanks for the tip in Word. I use MasterCook almost exclusively for my recipe files. I find that I have to rewrite so many recipes for my cooking classes for just the reason you’ve mentioned, but also for clarity, organization, and wordiness. This will still help.

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Carol, you are welcome. I don’t use MasterCook because the publishers I’ve worked with need a Microsoft Word file, so I don’t know much about it.

  15. says

    Dianne, this is great! Thanks for a very useful tip and the other comments helped too. I write my recipes in MS word for my classes, so it’s good to know i’m heading in the right direction if I ever want to write a book. I’ll be looking at that Scrivener software I think in the future. P.S. have enjoyed all your other recent posts too –just haven’t had a chance to comment.

    • diannejacob says

      Hey Shef, nice to hear from you. I don’t know if Scrivener software can be transported into Word, because most publishers request your manuscript be written in that software. I guess you don’t have to worry about it right now! Thanks for the kind words.

  16. says

    Thank you, Dianne–I am another longtime MS Word user that didn’t know about the split screen option! I’ve written nonfiction for years but am just getting started writing recipes. Do you have any other blog posts focusing on writing or formatting recipes?

    • diannejacob says

      I don’t have any on formatting but I have tons on recipe writing. Just click on the Recipe Writing link under Categories on my blog.

  17. Vicki Carroll says

    I hope you don’t mind me chiming in – I’m more of a teacher than a writer. The split screen is a wonderful feature of Word – it may be useful to those of you who use Excel that you can use the split window in Excel, as well. I taught Microcomputer Applications for four years at Linfield College, and the split screen is one of the techniques I taught my students. One of the suggestions I will suggest for all of you when you begin to learn a new program (or if you are exploring Word for many of the wonderful tools it is endowed with) is that you find a book on the program, if it no longer comes with a users guide, and scan the table of contents, the index, and the glossary. That will tip you off to many possibilities, and you’ll be able to go directly to the portions of the book which are most useful to you. Word can do things like counting the number of words or characters, constructing an outline which you can flesh out in your writing, and many other things.

    One of the strongest tools in Word, which many of you will find useful, is Styles. You can choose a set of formatting options (indents, font size, etc.), and can assign a style to them. You can invoke the style when you begin a new paragraph, or you can apply styles to paragraphs you have already constucted. You can even re-define the default styles the program comes with out of the box. You can also choose which style follows a given style! If you take the time to explore this wonderful program, you will discover that many features will save you far more time than you spent finding them. Word is full of delightful surprises for writers, if they can only find the time to discover them.

    • diannejacob says

      My husband would applaud this comment. He is always trying to teach me about Styles. But my problem is that I edit the files of others, and most of them have their own styles which override my styles if I let them, and then he gets mad and has to spend time unraveling it all. So I avoid Styles.

      Re reading manuals, I have tried. I skimmed a manual on WordPress and I still can’t figure out how spell check works, other than it underlines words. Maybe that’s it.

      I can tell that you are a teacher. Your advice is all very logical. Now we creative types have to apply it! Thanks Vicki.

  18. says

    Hi Diane!
    (When are you coming back to restock your crack seed supply? haha)

    What a timely, tip, as I work on my next cookbook (vegan soups, while the weather is still cool here…) Just tried this and it works great! It will definitely save a lot of time.

    I love little hints like this. Stuff that are simple to do, yet can save so much time and effort! Thank you!

    Alina Niemi
    Author of The New Scoop: Recipes for Dairy-Free, Vegan Ice Cream in Unusual Flavors (Plus Some Old Favorites)
    and Lizard Lunch and Other Funny Animal Poems for Kids: With Animal Facts, Puzzles and Fun Activities

    • diannejacob says

      My crackseed supply is decimated, Alina. I need some hairy footballs!

      So glad you appreciated this tip. It really is easy.

  19. says

    I’m working on a complex cookbook (some of the recipes span three pages) and this tip has been a lifesaver – thank you so much for sharing! Looking forward to learning more from you at your workshop in Ireland in September.

    • diannejacob says

      Wonderful, Kristin. I use it every time I have a long manuscript. Look forward to seeing you there.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *