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Recipe Style Guides


Chris Amirault
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Inspired by the current recipe preferences thread, I got to thinking about recipe style guides. All of the newspapers I know of have style guides, and I can't imagine that they don't exist for recipes as well.

If you have experience with these, can you share some insights about them? What guidelines are you given? Do they differ from magazine to magazine, publisher to publisher? Do they crimp your style, or keep you on the straight and narrow?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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If you have experience with these, can you share some insights about them? What guidelines are you given? Do they differ from magazine to magazine, publisher to publisher? Do they crimp your style, or keep you on the straight and narrow?

In my experience, they differ. Part of the style is up to the author, but there are often restrictions or guidlines that are imposed by the publisher or editor.

One magazine that printed several of my recipes earlier this year had very strict rules and reorganized my recipes once I submitted them. The newspaper I write a regular column for lets me do what I want.

These days you also have to think about international readers (maybe this is less important in the US). All of my recipes for my cookbook needed metric and imperial weights and measure and celcius and ferenheit temps.

I don't know how many book publishers have strict guidelines. If you look at a variety of books put out by one publisher they often have very different set-ups and looks. I think it's more the magazines and newspapers that impose restrictions.

That's my experience anyway. I'm sure others have different experiences.

edited to add:

I don't know if this is what you mean... but when I was in the editing stages with my cookbook there were several things that my Canadian publisher was good with but my US publisher needed me to change. Things like English cucumber had to be changed to long seedless; Roma tomato needed to be changed to Italian plum; etc.

Edited by Pam R (log)
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Thanks, Pam. That's precisely the sort of thing I mean.

I'm also wondering about -- how to put this nicely -- the level of expertise that can be assumed by the readership. Food Arts can use "brunoise"; Gourmet would probably translate it to "fine dice" or "mince"; I can imagine other recipes coming up with something even less jargon-y.

But, really, anything like this would be interesting to read about!

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm also wondering about -- how to put this nicely -- the level of expertise that can be assumed by the readership. Food Arts can use "brunoise"; Gourmet would probably translate it to "fine dice" or "mince"; I can imagine other recipes coming up with something even less jargon-y.

But, really, anything like this would be interesting to read about!

I think that's also up to the author for the most part. I wanted my book to be used by the home cook (I mean really used) - and I am not a trained chef. So I pretty much stay away from many 'culinary' terms. When possible I like to say something like '1/4" dice' or 1" cubes - specific sizes. But let's be honest - my book is 140 soup recipes - it doesn't have to be that precise - when you get into other cooking areas it's a different matter.

I'm more concerned with the level of expertise of my readership, vs. their concern about mine. I'm always clear when giving interviews or writing my little bios - I grew up in the family business, I didn't go to school to learn how to cook. I want each and every person using the recipes to be able to understand them.

I just remembered one issue with the publishers though. I like doing things by weight - as we know it's much more accurate. All of my recipes were done using weight measurements. I was then asked to change everything to volume or piece units. IE: 2 lbs of potatoes needed to be changed to 4 medium potatoes. 1 oz. of basil changed to 1/4 cup. That 'crimped my style".

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My sister is a freelance editor who does a lot of work on cookbooks. I'll ask her if the publishers she works with have specific style guides. One of her tasks is to make sure the style is consistent within an individual book; another is to translate from British English and occasionally foreigner-written English to American English.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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in the us, every newspaper, magazine and book publisher has a pretty strict style sheet. how much they follow it is really up to the individual editor. (and, of course, that applies only to newspapers that print their own recipes ... most pull them off the wire and run them as they come in, which gives you a mish-mash of styles).

sometimes copyeditors, being copyeditors, develop tics that can be amusing. i worked with one who insisted on replacing the word "prick" with "pierce" and "thighs" with "legs" (which are actually different things).

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another is to translate from British English and occasionally foreigner-written English to American English.

Good point. I had to change colour to color and flavour to flavor throughout my book. For some reason Canadians and those in the UK/Aus can understand they are the same thing ... Americans apparently have more difficulty with it.. :wink:

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Chris, if you're interested, check out The Recipe Writer's Handbook, which is just what it claims to be. When I had to start writing down recipes for my classes, it helped me a lot. I have an old edition, but I believe it's been updated.

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another is to translate from British English and occasionally foreigner-written English to American English.

Good point. I had to change colour to color and flavour to flavor throughout my book. For some reason Canadians and those in the UK/Aus can understand they are the same thing ... Americans apparently have more difficulty with it.. :wink:

Something tells me that if an American writer were to submit items to a British publication, the U's would be inserted into those words before the article saw print.

It's not a matter of not understanding...given that what Americans call "Standard Written English" reflects the orthographic reform efforts of folks like Noah Webster and Melvil Dewey, those words just plain look funny to American eyes with u's in them.

Stylebooks enforce spelling rules, too. (And there are peculiar local ones: for many years, the Chicago Tribune had ultra-simplified spelling rules that, for instance, dropped the "ugh" from words like "although" and rendered the word "through" as "thru". The Kansas City Star for many years spelled the plural of "bus" with three s's. And so on.) So if the national standard for spelling is to include a "u" in "color", I'd be surprised if a magazine or newspaper editor let an article through that omitted the letter.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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once again, though that is a very good book, it's important to note that that is just ONE style guide. there is no universal agreement. you can write a recipe perfectly according to that style guide and have an editor insist that you totally rewrite it. if this happens, do NOT tell the editor that they are wrong.

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once again, though that is a very good book, it's important to note that that is just ONE style guide.

this is so true. as I said earlier, my two publishers wanted the same book done two different ways. There was give and take on all sides so that everybody could be happy with the final result.

Edited by Pam R (log)
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I emailed my sister who sent the following response:

Publishers may have their own style and also preferences for reference books; when I've worked on cookbooks for St. Martin's Press they've used the Herbst book for food spellings and that's really not a good book; my two bibles are Recipes into Type for basic styling, and Webster's New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts. I use those for Hippocrene and Avalon cookbooks.

When I copyedit anything I prepare my own style sheet that includes a list of terms that need to be kept consistent, also foreign or accented words or special terms that need caps or hyphenation or apostrophes, etc.; for cookbooks my style sheet typically includes such terms as "confectioners' sugar" and "whole wheat flour." In the body of the style sheet I list all the stylings I use for numbers, based unless instructed otherwise by the publisher on Recipes into Type's recommendations, such as a 9 x 13-inch pan (though Rockport prefers 9" x 13" so house style does overrule other styles).

Rockport has just sent me a 16-page house style sheet that largely covers points in Chicago Manual of Style 15 (that is, nothing there is specific to cookbooks) but also differs a trifle from Webster's Collegiate 11 and Chicago, such as Rockport's preference for "email" rather than "e-mail." They are sending me a couple of books they've already published so I can see how they prefer things to be worded & typeset.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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From SuzySushi's sister's post (say that three times fast):

When I copyedit anything I prepare my own style sheet that includes a list of terms that need to be kept consistent, also foreign or accented words or special terms that need caps or hyphenation or apostrophes, etc.; for cookbooks my style sheet typically includes such terms as "confectioners' sugar" and "whole wheat flour." In the body of the style sheet I list all the stylings I use for numbers, based unless instructed otherwise by the publisher on Recipes into Type's recommendations, such as a 9 x 13-inch pan (though Rockport prefers 9" x 13" so house style does overrule other styles).

This seems like such a great idea -- and it'd be swell to see one, if that would at all be possible. Is this standard operating procedure, or your sister's particular approach?

Sorry for all the questions, but it's great to have the insider scoop!

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris,

I think it's S.O.P. for copyeditors, though each has his/her own way of working.

My sister sent me a sample style sheet she prepared for a Cajun cookbook she edited. It's a three-page doc, so if you want to see the whole thing, PM me your email address and I'll send it as an attached file.

A few excerpts here:

General Instructions

1. Use serial comma, and commas before and after “too” when meaning “also.”

4. Romanize all individual loan words used in their original meanings, and spell/punctuate per Webster’s Collegiate 11th and Recipes into Type, e.g., boudin; however, italicize and retain the foreign spellings for all foreign terms not in Webster’s or Recipes into Type, e.g., fricot.

5. Do not italicize any foreign terms that are proper nouns, e.g., Jour de l’An.

6. Names of specific restaurant dishes should be initial-capped without quotes.

Special Terms

cadeaux

café (restaurant)

café au lait

café noir

Cajun

Cajun country

capitaine

cappuccino

cast-iron (adj.)

catfish

charcuterie

chaudin

chili, chilies

choupique (bowfin)

As you can see, the details are quite painstaking!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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My editor sent me a copy of the style sheet she made for my book - that way I could understand all the little red marks throughout the manuscript :blink: . I think it's a common (and smart) practice.

Edited by Pam R (log)
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