“Recipes into Type advises against using ‘divided’ in ingredient lists. These kinds of instructions belong in the recipe steps below ’97 where it will be clear HOW the ingredient is to be divided.”
“I’ve always used “divided,” she emailed me. “What do you think?”
Sorry. I don’t like divided either. Here’s why it doesn’t work:
1. People don’t know what it means. “Divided” is some kind of code that is left unexplained. When readers see “3 tablespoons honey, divided,” they might think it means cut in half, which is not necessarily so.
2. They have to read the method to find out. When they continue on to the method, it gets complicated. It says to use 2/3 now, and the remaining amount later, or gives numerical accounts, such as 1 tablespoon now and more later. Why make the recipe so hard to understand, or presume that readers will even pay attention?
3. It’s easy to screw up. When I’m roaring through a recipe, before I know it, I’ve dumped the whole ingredient into the first mention of its use. When I discover what I’ve done (10 minutes later when I’m reading the recipe for the umpteenth time), I get annoyed.
Undeterred (or perhaps stung), Stephanie asked the Cookbook Friends Group on Facebook how they felt about “divided.” Their answers were um, mixed. Some authors said they liked it. Others admitted that, like me, they had dumped the whole amount in by mistake (so satisfying!). Barbara Gibbs Ostmann, author of The Recipe Writer’s Handbook, confirmed that while people are supposed to read recipes through before proceeding, ” in reality, that rarely happens.” Like a few others, she said her solution, whenever possible, is to divide the ingredients list into parts.
Exactly. Whenever I see that word when I’m editing recipes, my goal is to delete it. I hope you will do the same. Here are my suggestions for alternatives to “divided:”
1. Use two measurements. Now, this doesn’t work when the measurements are equal, but there’s nothing wrong with “3 tablespoons olive oil + more to oil the pan.” That is much clearer to me than “4 tablespoons olive oil, divided.”
2. Divide the ingredient list into parts. This is my favorite edit. If a cake recipe calls for sugar in the batter and sugar in the frosting, divide the ingredients list (sorry). Add the heading “Frosting” and put the frosting ingredients under it. This way you specify the amount of sugar for each part of the recipe, and there is no confusion.
In the end, Stephanie said, “Our editor decided to keep ‘divided.’ But due to the Facebook conversation, I’m thinking about adding each ingredient multiple times in the list wherever it’s used.” Good.
Are you a fan of “divided?” Or maybe you have other solutions for not using it?
Photo by Grant Cochrane, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, where I can earn several cents if you make a purchase.]