Dec 102013
 

Cute-BabyOh em gee! I am so tired of baby-talk words in recipe writing, especially:

  • Yummy
  • Sammy, and
  • Tummy.

While editing a cookbook manuscript for a publisher, I decided the author must have been a Rachael Ray groupie. How else to explain her use of these three terms, not to mention “easy-peasy” and exclamation points in almost every recipe headnote? At least she didn’t add “Yum-O.” Continue reading »

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Nov 122013
 
Shakshooka-Israel

What is the most exciting way to tell people to make this dish? Julia knows.

You’re sick of writing “add” and “place” in recipes, aren’t you? (If not, you should be.)

Here’s help. Use powerful action verbs, the way that Julia Child did. I spent a pleasurable hour reading through Mastering the Art of French Cooking to Continue reading »

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Oct 292013
 
Style: "Neutral"

Cookbook Author Anne LIndsay, now retired and my hero.

After a long day of work, I want to make a quick, easy meal that tastes great. And one that’s light and healthy.

That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Those of us who have written and tested recipes know.

Just three cookbooks I’ve used in the last decade fit the bill. Until recently, I took these books for granted. I didn’t think about the author as a professional in our field. I was too busy cooking, grateful to be a home cook using good recipes that worked.

Earlier this year I went to Canada for a food blogging conference. I decided to find this cookbook author whose no-fail recipes I used for years. Her name is no secret to Canadians: Anne Lindsay. The weathered and stained cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf — gifts from my sister in Vancouver — are

  • Lighthearted Everyday Cooking (1991)
  • Anne Lindsay’s Light Kitchen (1994)
  • The Lighthearted Cookbook: Recipes for Healthy Heart Cooking (1998)

She wrote these cookbooks with health organization partners: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, The United Way of Canada, and the Canadian Heart Foundation. (You’ll learn in a minute why this was a brilliant Continue reading »

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Sep 242013
 

Using-Salt-in-RecipesWhenever I edit recipes, I feel my blood pressure rising (and I haven’t even consumed the salt yet!) Three things about using salt set me off:

Why do so many recipes fail to specify the amount of salt? Why do recipes say to season with salt when you can’t know if you’re adding the right amount? Why do recipes say to add salt at the wrong time?

As you know, I have opinions on recipe writing, and specifying salt is no exception. Here’s my take on where many recipes go wrong, and how to fix them:

1. Adding “to taste” to salt in the ingredients list. The ingredients list comes before Continue reading »

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Aug 272013
 

Cooking is about action, and that should come across vigorously in your recipe writing.

Last week I aroused passions about passive voice in recipes, not only here in the comments but on Facebook and Twitter.

My point was that cooking is an activity, so we need direct language that shows action. Active verbs are the ticket, an effective and efficient way to show movement.

In these examples below, you won’t find a whiff of passive voice. There is also no use of “you,” which some readers found objectionable. Others pointed out that active verbs are imperative, where the writer commands readers to action by implication. (Haven’t you always wanted to command?)

I plucked these examples from my bookshelf. Note how many verbs writers crams into a paragraph. It’s like watching a movie, sports event or ballet:

1. Julia Child

Scoop (peppers) into mixing bowl. Spread both sides of the bread with Continue reading »

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Aug 202013
 

Passive voice would mean writing something like “the melon slices, quartered figs and goat cheese are added to the salad.” Why isn’t the person doing the action identified? After all, it will be you.

In every writing class or book about writing, it says: Avoid passive voice. (Passive voice is when you don’t identify the person or thing doing the action. It’s considered lazy and imprecise, everything that recipe writing is not.)

I do my best to remove it when I edit. Yet I read dozens of published recipe instructions like this in Continue reading »

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May 212013
 

No matter what you want readers to make, instructions must be clear and concise. That sounds obvious, I know.

Writing is rewriting, as the saying goes, and that applies to recipe writing too. When I’m editing recipes for clients, whether individuals or publishers, part of my job is to line edit. That means rewriting to make the instructions clearer.

Line editing requires constant vigilance. I tighten, choose the most specific word, clarify, and strive for elegance. There’s a fine line between spelling everything out and not being too obvious. Sometimes I vote for the reader and common sense instead of more explanation.

Here are 11 recipe instructions I found recently that needed revision:

1. Avoid mixtures. This kind of instruction makes me crazy: “Mix together two mixtures with a mixer, and then mix the mixtures together in a mixing bowl.” First of all, there are six uses of versions of “mix” in one sentence. That’s just nuts!

If you keep referring to “mixtures,” your reader has to go back and figure out which ones you’re talking about. And trust me, you never want to mix up your reader. Substitute specific words or terms for a mixture, such as batter, custard, wet ingredients, and dry ingredients.See this previous post on using the word mixtures. And for heaven’s sake, don’t add more Continue reading »

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