How to Write Helpful Instructions in Recipes and Blog Posts

blank-recipe-card-ionc-fullHow to Write Helpful Instructions in Recipes and Blog Posts

When you take the time to write clear instructions, you increase the chances of helping your reader succeed. After getting such good results from your ideas, they will come back for more. Learn more in this latest guest post from Linda Dessau of Content Mastery Guide.

When you teach your blog readers how to do something, it demonstrates three very important qualities about you and your nutrition consulting practice:

  1. You want to help
  2. You can help
  3. There is more help where that came from

Unfortunately, confusing or poorly written instructions won’t convey any of that. The reader will fail to do whatever you’ve promised to teach them, or their cooking attempt will not turn out as hoped.

In either case, you will have turned away someone who could be a potential client or referral source.

Dianne Jacob is a food writer, speaker, and the author of Will Write for Food. Since she devotes an entire chapter to mastering the art of recipe writing (and also has an excellent chapter about food blogging), I interviewed her for more information about this topic:

Q: You describe recipe writing as “a form of systematic technical writing” and you admonish recipe writers for taking the easy way out with instructions like “Salt, to taste.” Why do you think people make such light of the process, and how is that a problem?

A: It drives me crazy! Our readers deserve more professionalism. They are not us and they do not know how much salt to add.

Just yesterday I was making dinner and the writer — a very prestigious one, I might add — wrote ”add the salt,” in the method. The amount in the ingredients list said 2 teaspoons, or to taste. Well, I was the middle of making the soup so there would be no point in tasting it! I think what she meant is that later, she asks you to taste the soup at the end and add more salt if it needs it. But it’s confusing.

For more on this issue, see

http://diannej.com/2013/do-you-make-these-5-mistakes-with-salt-in-recipes/.

Q: You suggest listing ingredients in the order they will be used in the directions. Why is this so important?

The ingredients list and the method go together. Readers glance back and forth, so each should progress the same way, step by step through the recipe. It’s a dance.

Q: With the ability to update a blog post later, do you think there is less onus to test a recipe as thoroughly? How do you suggest bloggers update their recipes later?

A: No. You still have to be as professional as possible. Bloggers who get lots of comments from readers about their recipes can see how to change them, but most bloggers don’t get much feedback beyond “looks delicious.” Another reason to go back and change them is to update them, which Google likes very much. It makes them come up higher in the search results.

Q: Why do some food bloggers use recipe plugins, and how are these useful?

A: Plugins [that format and display your recipes] make recipes more accessible in terms of search, which you definitely want. They also make it easier for readers to sync and save. Some plugins also generate nutritional data, or have a shopping list generator or other features.

Note from Linda: Here are a few plugins recommended by Food Bloggers of Canada.

5 tips for writing clear instructions in recipes and blog posts

  1. In how-to posts, limit each list item or sentence to one action; in recipes, however, Jacob recommends you group together similar actions, such as adding several ingredients to a soup before simmering.
  2. Use a numbered list if the number or order of steps is important; otherwise, use a bullet list.
  3. Give your readers an idea of how long each step might take.
  4. Separate any commentary about the topic so it’s not mixed in with the list of instructions – add it to the introduction or conclusion instead.
  5. Test your instructions thoroughly – walk through them several times from your reader’s perspective; if you can, find volunteer testers from your target market (give yourself a week or so to collect their feedback and revise your post).

When you take the time to write clear instructions, you increase the chances of helping your reader succeed. After getting such good results from your ideas, they will come back for more. And when they’re ready to seek help to go to the next level, they’ll have the confidence to choose you.

linda-dessau-200-200Linda Dessau is the founder of Content Mastery Guide, where she helps wellness clinics and their practitioners attract new clients with a great clinic blog. She provides blog writing, blog editing, blog training, and blog management, so you get all the benefits of blogging with none of the headaches.

 

 

 

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