Judith Jones would be rolling over in her grave.
Oh, this was thorough and fabulous!! (as usual)
When you write a recipe, you want to feel like you're talking to your reader (or cook or baker), talking them through the recipe, in language that's easy to understand and follow along with. There's a way (and a reason, for some) to write dry, formulaic recipes without any hoopla. Magazines and newspapers often do it, where space is a consideration, and will write; Step 1: Combine (or mix) the eggs, sugar, butter, flour and salt in a bowl. Step 2: Add the remaining ingredients. But I think most readers like it when they hear the author's voice while they're making a recipe, whether it be Rose Berenbaum or Ina Garten, who both write different kinds of recipes, but who also both have plenty of fans.
"In a bowl, combine . . ." always sounds to me like a bad translation from some other language, maybe German or Russian. I stet it, however unhappily, if it is the predominant wording or the house style; if not, I suggest making it sound more like something a real person would say.
And btw: you cannot add ANYTHING to a pot or bowl or other vessel made of metal, glass, ceramic, or other inert material. You can, however, add something to the ingredients that are already in the vessel. (I know this is a lost cause, but I try anyway.)
The comment I get the most from my readers is about how helpful the writing and explanations are. I've never considered if it is too long or too short. My headers are usually long and I often include more in the instructions. Why can't we just let people write the way they want and find their audience instead of trying to stuff everyone into a mold? My first intention is to teach baking and pastry. As the owner of a wholesale bakery for 25 years and currently a pastry chef in a high end restaurant, I like to incorporate a lot of what I have learned (I'm self-taught) in both fields in my writing. That along with a lot of photographs seems to be what my readers appreciate. We all have different audiences so it seems logical that there would be different styles of writing. Good for anyone who puts themselves out there.
I'm torn! I appreciate the clarity that accompanies recipes that start with a key utensil. At the same time, I could read Nigel Slater's recipes over and over again as if they were poems (I do read them over and over, his books reside on my bedside table).
My tentative guess is that if a writer knows what they're doing, then there won't be a lack of clarity when they choose not to adopt the utensil-first formula... still, just a guess!
Also, not everyone who uses recipes is a "reader" and not everyone who shares recipes is a "writer" ~ different tastes, different expectations?
Congrats on all your wins Dianne. The first part of this newsletter especially caught my eye. As a debut author, I recently realised that while my style is very conversational it also meant my recipes were a lot longer than usual and so I had to work with my editors, following the publishing house style (as mentioned by those who disagreed with JJ’s suggestion/instruction) while trying to make sure my voice & style came across strongly. After polling a number of my followers/readers it was also apparent that when reading recipes, people want straight forward instructions and a bit of direction even for the most ‘basic’ things like peeling the onions. We may not all have the opportunity or power to insist on editorial styles. But I agree that one’s unique voice will set one apart from the rest.
Cudos on your latest national award for "Will Write for Food"!