Eva van Emden (she/her), freelance editor

Certified copy editor and proofreader


June 23, 2022

Recipes into Type: A Handbook for Cookbook Writers and Editors

Book cover: Recipes into Type
Recipes into Type, by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon (HarperCollins, 1993), is the standard text on cookbook editing. It’s got detailed advice on all of the tricky aspects of writing a recipe: choosing a good title, what to put in the headnote, what to include in the ingredients list, writing a good recipe method, what to cross-reference and what not to, and what to put in a recipe note. It also goes into detail about the recipe-specific copy editing considerations: punctuation, numbers, and capitalization. The chapters on indexing, manuscript preparation, and design are not directed so much at editors, but the indexing chapter in particular is helpful to understand why the index is done the way it is. Chapter 9, Useful Information, contains various container sizes, US–metric conversions, British and US cooking terms, cooking temperatures, recommended amounts for servings, and substitutions, and the word list has the authors’ recommend spelling and capitalization for a variety of food words. Anyone modernizing an old recipe might find items like egg size conversions or oven temperature conversions (fairly hot: 400°F, British gas mark 6) very helpful.


  1. Setting Up a Recipe
  2. The Language of Recipes
  3. Punctuation
  4. Numbers
  5. Capitalization
  6. Indexing
  7. Preparation of the Manuscript
  8. Format and Typography
  9. Useful Information
  10. Word List

As a copy editor, I find that numbers and capitalization are a very tricky area where authors and editors can take a variety of approaches. A cookbook combines narrative text in the book introduction and the recipe introductions with more technical and number-intensive text in the ingredients list and recipe method, and deciding which numbers to spell out where requires some thought. On the other hand, spelling out numbers in one place and using figures in another looks inconsistent. There are also decisions to be made about whether recipe titles are capitalized when cross-referenced elsewhere in the text, and how sub-recipes are capitalized. Recipes into Type describes the various styles and how to apply them. For some guidelines on the endless questions about which cheeses and wines to capitalize, Recipes into Type quotes the “Wines without Caps” instalment of On Language for some general guidelines.

The book is getting old, and shows its age in the chapters on design and preparation of the manuscript, but the information in the other chapters is still relevant, and the conventions for ingredients lists, recipe methods, and capitalization match what I currently see people using. Now, did I edit or proofread more than forty cookbooks before I read this book? Yes, I did. I was able to get by with the publisher’s house style guides, and the work done by the in-house editors always laid a solid base for my copy edit. However, if you are working for a self-publishing author, or for a publisher who does not specialize in cookbook publishing, or if you would like to dig a little more deeply into best practices for recipe writing, I think this book will be extremely useful.

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