Pet peeves of a cookbook copy editor

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If you decide to write a cookbook, you'll need to know that the work isn't finished when you type the last page and hand the manuscript to the publisher. That's when the copy editor steps in, and her job can be quite a challenge, says veteran editor Suzanne Fass. It's her task to "save writers from embarrassment" by correcting spelling, punctuation, noticing missing steps, and more. Copy editing can be a frustrating experience, which prompted Suzanne to list her top 10 peeves about being a cookbook copy editor. 

Rather than a catalog of grievances, the list reads more like a tip sheet on how to be a better writer. Suzanne's first peeve is recipes that are written with no voice. "Recipes don't just tell what to combine and how long to cook it-they convey your personality. Part of the creation is your own description of how it should look, sound, feel, taste, and smell," she says. 

Many of the other gripes echo complaints I've heard from many cookbook owners - inconsistent terms for measurements or techniques, ambiguous instructions, and unrealistic preparation times. "The time it takes your readers to prep something could be very different from the time it takes you, and light-years from the chef you're working with," says Suzanne. "If you include times, a realistic range is helpful," she continues. Cookbook users like me couldn't agree more.    

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