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One of the greatest things about writing a cookbook is you don’t have to be a writer to do it. But writers know something that cookbook creators might not: editing is key. And when it comes to writing cookbooks, editing a cookbook can make all the difference to the book’s success. After all, an error in quantity or a confusing instruction can affect the outcome of the recipe—and the usefulness of the cookbook.

As time-consuming as it may be, reviewing a cookbook for accuracy, clarity, and consistency is well worth the effort. Here are four steps you don’t want to skip when editing a cookbook:

1. Look for Writing Errors

Some of the most common writing errors in cookbooks involve abbreviations of cooking terms and measurements. For example, tablespoon is often abbreviated with a capital T, whereas a teaspoon is a lowercase t. The best way to avoid confusing the two is to write out the words or abbreviate them as “Tbs.” and “tsp.”

When editing a cookbook, if you come across something that looks wrong, it probably is. That’s why it’s important to check the original recipe for accuracy. Sometimes, quantities, ingredients, oven temperature, and descriptions (such as “heaping” or “scant”) are left out or copied wrong, which can change the recipe drastically.

Finally, spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, while they may not alter a recipe, look unprofessional and can affect the book’s readability. Proofread carefully and fix any errors in mechanics.

2. Check for Clarity of Wording

As you’re reading through the recipes for writing errors, ask yourself if the instructions are clear. Do the words explain how to make the recipe without confusing the reader? For example, if a recipe calls for cooking an ingredient, this may mean sautéing, frying, baking, boiling, or broiling. Edit to specify the proper method.

Also, be specific about certain ingredients. Is dill supposed to be dill seed or dill weed? Does the beef need to be a particular cut? Should the oats be rolled or quick? For many recipes, this won’t matter. But check to make sure.

Instructions that are out of order can also be confusing—and disastrous. If part of a recipe should be completed and set aside before the next phase begins, make sure that’s noted. Or, if an oven needs to be preheated, the recipe should say so at the beginning, not halfway through. Instructions should be easy to follow, organized, and reader-friendly.

3. Be Consistent When  Editing a Cookbook

Is “cup” spelled out sometimes and abbreviated others? Are all numbers written as numerals? (Note: Numerals are more reader-friendly than written numbers, especially in ingredient lists and instructions.) Be consistent, whichever style you choose.

Pay attention to the ingredients listed and those used in the directions as well. Are they the same? For example, if a recipe lists egg whites under ingredients, make sure the directions don’t say egg yolks. Ingredients should also be listed in the order they are used.

Consistency also applies to recipe book formats, which can take a number of shapes. The most common is a standard recipe format, where a list of ingredients is followed by step-by-step directions. Another popular format is where the ingredients are embedded in bold within the context of the directions. Whichever format is used, keep it the same throughout the recipe book.

4. Edit and Organize Cookbook Sections

Cookbooks aren’t just a compilation of recipes. They usually contain some front and back matter, too. This might include a preface, acknowledgments, table of contents, index, and glossary. All of these sections must be reviewed for errors, clarity, and consistency.

Sidebars, or separate bits of information related to the recipe (such as helpful hints, baking tips, brief histories, etc.), are also not to be overlooked in the editing process. A cookbook reader will pay close attention to sidebars, so getting them looking and sounding perfect is worth the work.

Finally, make sure all cookbook sections are in order. For example, start with the preface and table of contents, follow this with recipes that are organized in a sensible manner (appetizers, salads, main courses, and so forth), and end with an index. Pay close attention to the recipe section of the book to verify that each recipe falls in its proper category.

Editing a cookbook for errors, consistency, clarity, and organization will help make the recipe book as useful and valuable as it can be. And for the book’s cooks and writers, there’s no better recipe for success than that!

See also Nine Reasons to Take Self-Editing Seriously.

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writing v editingMost of us writers know that writing and editing have a lot in common. For one thing, they both need each other. You can’t write, or write well, without editing, and you can’t edit without a piece of writing. For another, they both involve words, grammar, mechanics, communication, headwork—and the list goes on.

But writing and editing are actually very different disciplines, and understanding those differences can go a long way in making you better at either—or both. Check out these five, and learn what skills you need to use for each process. You might even discover which one you’re best suited for.

Writing is about creating; editing is mending.

Writers are creators of stories. They know how to tell a tale or put an idea into readable form. A thoughtful, creative mind is a quality of a good writer. Editors are fixers. They’re good at cutting, pasting, adding, revising, restructuring, and rewording.

Writing requires finding research; editing corroborates it.

While writers must find resources to back up their facts, editors do the fact-checking. They need to verify that the writer is telling the truth. Fact-checking is a good skill to have as a writer, but it’s essential for an editor.

Writing uses the heart; editing relies on the head.

Writers are a passionate bunch. They write with heart, soul, and all the senses. Editors make sure the writing isn’t overly emotional, flowery, or opinionated and that it appeals to the intended audience. Editors must be mindful and objective.

Writing takes reading; editing takes resourcefulness.

Most good writers are avid readers. Reading makes writers better at their craft. Editors benefit from reading, but they must be good at using resources even more. Knowing how to make something read better by consulting style guides is key for editors.

Writing can’t be interrupted; editing can.

Writing is something you need hours of quality, uninterrupted time to do. Editing can be done in pieces—a paragraph or page at a time. It helps to have continuity when editing; writing, on the other hand, depends on it.

Writing and editing go hand-in-hand, but they’re not the same thing. Even though many writers are editors and vice versa, each requires a different set of skills. Know what it takes to do either job and learn how to become better at what you do best.

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editing If self-editing isn't your thing, you’re in good company. Plenty of writers don’t like doing it. Some writers skim through the task just to get it done quicker; others skip it altogether. I wouldn't recommend either, even if you have someone else lined up to do the job. While a peer or professional edit can be enormously useful, self-editing has worth, too. In fact, done with caution and care, self-editing can pay off in ways you may not have considered.

Here are nine reasons to take the task of self-editing seriously:

It’s good practice. Self-editing is a good way to brush up on the rules of grammar, spelling, and style. It also helps you become more proficient at using key writing resources, like dictionaries, thesauruses, and style guides.

It can make or break a sale. When there isn’t time or resources to send your work out to be edited, a self-polished piece has a much better chance of landing a sale than one that hasn’t been reviewed by you.

It’s free. Professional editing doesn’t come free, but self-editing does. Even if you do get your work professionally edited, cleaning it up first can decrease the time a professional uses, right along with the fee.

It’s a productive diversion. Self-editing gives you a break from writing. You’re still working with words, but you’re doing it in a different way. Self-editing is a diversion that’s both productive and refreshing.

It helps improve your writing. Self-editing is essentially the process of making your writing better—clearer, cleaner, and more professional. And who doesn’t want to improve their writing?

It makes you more serious. When you put some effort into self-editing, you show others that you are serious about your craft and credibility. More important, you prove it to yourself.

It adds closure. Think of self-editing as a final step in the writing process. When you give the task your all and complete it, that’s when you know your work is done and ready to be read.

It’s what true professionals do. Self-editing is the fine-tuning you do that separates you from hobby writers and less serious professionals. A self-editing job well done earns you respectability.

It does more good than harm. What are the cons of self-editing? It takes time, you might miss errors, and you may not enjoy yourself. But just re-read all the pros above, and you’ll see all the good that self-editing does!

For more information on editing your work, check out my earlier posts on punctuation, style, and usage.

 

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Blank Ringbound NotepadMy new e-book, No Average Writer: How to Stand Out in the Writing Crowd and Write Your Best, is now available!

What's different about this book? First of all, it doesn't address every aspect of writing. Instead, No Average Writer points out common writing mistakes that you may not even be aware you're making—and how to avoid making them. The book also focuses on how to improve your writing skills and style, rather than trying to write like someone else.

If you want to get noticed among the throng of writers out there, why not give the book a try. Read on for more information:

Are you a writer whose words fail to come to life on the page?  Does your research lack substance or credibility? Can your grammar and usage use a facelift?  Has your attempt at self-editing fallen short? If you answer yes to any of the above, you may be an average writer. The good news is, you don’t have to be! Whether you’re a new writer or a not, you can improve your craft and break out of average-writer status with a little determination and know-how. No Average Writer is a quick, easy-to-read guide offers tips and tricks for how to stand out in the writing crowd—and write your best.

Published by Draft2Digital, No Average Writer can be downloaded through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks for $2.99. Please check it out!

 

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There’s a lot to love about the state of Minnesota, but if you’re a writer living here, there’s even more to appreciate—all the great writing-related organizations. Whether you’re looking for an editor, a place to meet and network with other writers, or a writing class, the six listed below offer invaluable help, resources, and support. Take a look:

  • Professional Editors Network (PEN). An organization for editors and others who work with words, PEN offers many benefits to its members, including monthly meetings, resources for writers and editors, and a place to network with other writing professionals. PEN’s website includes a directory of mostly local editors. Yearly dues: $35.
  • The MidTown Writers Meetup Group. For a fun, no pressure morning of writing, you can join the MidTown Writers Meetup Group Saturday mornings at A La Salsa restaurant in Minneapolis. The group is given a prompt to begin the writing session. No critiquing is done, but you have the option to share your writing with the group.
  • The Loft Literary Center. This well-known literary center in the Open Book building on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis offers writing classes, contests, conferences, resources, readings, and more. You do not need to become a member to use The Loft, but a membership contribution provides you with discounts to Loft events.

loft

  • MN Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.The local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s & Illustrators, the MN SCBWI is a great resource for those interested in networking with other children’s writers in the area. This group hosts “monthly mixers,” workshops, and conferences at various locations around the Twin Cities. Free with national SCBWI annual membership.
  • Midwest Fiction Writers. According to its website, the MFW is a “professional writing organization that includes approximately 100 published or aspiring writers. Under the broad umbrella of romance, our members write historical, contemporaries, time travels, suspense, erotic, women’s fiction – to name just a few.” The MFW meets every second Saturday at the Edina Community Center. Annual dues: $35.
  • Minnesota Center for Book Arts. A place for anyone interested in celebrating book arts, from papermaking to book binding to self-publishing techniques. The MCBA is located in the Open Book building, along with The Loft, and offers a variety of workshops, artists programs, and events. Membership includes discounts and invitations to MCBA-sponsored events. Individual membership: $40.

If you’ve joined or heard of any other Minnesota writing organizations that have helped you or inspired your writing life, please share them here!

Image by Grn1749

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Every once in a while, my kids will ask me to take a look at a paper they're working on for a class. Sure! I'll say, as I eagerly pull out my editing pen and prepare to mark up the pages. But experience has taught me not to get too ambitious with their request. Unlike me, who prefers a thorough, detailed edit, kids are a little more sensitive.

For them, there’s a fine line between editing and overediting—and in fact the latter can do more harm than good. Too much red marking doesn’t just upset kids, it can confuse them, undermine their confidence, and turn them off to writing altogether.

So how can you help a child write a better paper, especially if it needs a lot of work? Should you—as their “editor”—let some mistakes go?

Actually, yes. It’s a good idea to point out errors that kids should know based on their education level. But think twice about those problems of style, grammar, and consistency that come with age and experience. Nit-picking might be okay for a high school senior but not for a ten-year-old. In either case, a paper doesn’t have to be technically perfect to be good.

Instead, concentrate on the bigger issues. Does the paper do what it’s supposed to do, like answer a question or present an argument? Is it organized, with an introduction, body, and conclusion? Are the style and format appropriate? Does the paper meet the length requirements? Be sure to point out the paper’s strengths, too. Knowing what they’re doing right can make all the difference to developing young writers.

Finally, stress the importance of revision. Even professionals rarely finish a piece without going over it multiple times and making changes. Revision is an essential step to good writing. And the earlier that truth is learned, the better.

(Image by Janos Feher)