#2: Copyediting

'Oh, you're an editor? So you just fix all the punctuation and grammar?'

Well, yes. But copyediting is much more than that, especially when you're editing cookbooks and recipes.  

An editor will ask a lot of questions about every single recipe and query anything that's missing or unclear with the author.

  • Are all the ingredients that are mentioned in the method included in the ingredients list – and vice versa?
  • Are the ingredients listed in the order in which they're used?
  • If it doesn't matter what order the ingredients are listed in, are they listed in descending order of weight, volume or number?
  • Does every recipe include a serving amount?
  • Are sizes of pots, pans and baking tins given?
  • Are oven temperatures always given or what level of heat you need to cook over?
  • Are cooking times given for each step?
  • Are readers told what they should be looking or aiming for in each step?

These might seem like pedantic, nitpicky details, but here's an example of the difference all this can make: rather than saying 'sauté the onions, then add the garlic', the copyeditor will work with the author to tease out the details and rewrite that as 'Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened but not browned, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, just until fragrant.'

But that's not all. These days editors also apply Word styles to the text so that it will seamlessly import into the Adobe InDesign graphic design software for the typesetter. This means that every single line or paragraph of text gets tagged with a style that tells the typesetter what it is, making for a cleaner layout.

In Lily Ramirez Foran's pork pibil recipe from her forthcoming book, Tacos, we used styles for the recipe title, serving amount, ingredients, ingredients subheading and recipe method. We like to make our styles colourful and we use a few different fonts so that we can see at a glance that all the text has been tagged.

The editor and author will probably go back and forth a few times to resolve all those queries, but once all the questions have been answered, the text has been tagged with Word styles and, yes, all the punctuation and grammar are correct, the final, complete manuscript gets sent to our creative director, Jane Matthews, for layout.

You can read the rest of the newsletter here.

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