10 Tips for Writing Your Own Original Recipes

Updated on July 14, 2016

Documenting the Cooking Process

These detailed notes show the order in which I created the beef stew. The organization and format of this first draft will change dramatically by the time the recipe is finally written.
These detailed notes show the order in which I created the beef stew. The organization and format of this first draft will change dramatically by the time the recipe is finally written. | Source

Do you want to write a cookbook, publish your original food recipes online, or share recipes with friends? No matter which of these you have in mind, when it comes to writing your original food recipes you need to give your reader every opportunity for success. Make your recipes easy to write and easy to follow by using these 10 recipe writing tips.

1. Document Your Original Recipe as You Make It

I keep a pad of large, unlined paper in the kitchen for taking notes about how I prepare a recipe I’m about to write. The notes I take are the first draft of my finished written recipe. I write these notes in the order of the steps that go into making the recipe. This first draft is the most accurate picture I can show you of how I go about creating an original recipe. You can see that I cross out items and rewrite them as I experiment, and that the paper collects bits of stray ingredients while the ink smears under wet hands. These notes are the free-form record of a real time kitchen event. They eventually come to contain all the information I need in order to write a recipe that others can follow with success.

2, Be Specific about Ingredient Measurements and Forms

If I were writing a recipe for my Grandma Ellie, one of the most accomplished cooks I’ve ever known, I could safely substitute a “pinch” for 1/8 teaspoon or a “handful” for 1/3 cup. In fact, when Ellie wrote her recipes, that’s how she wrote her measurements. But this kind of provincial measuring system won’t help a reader who didn’t grow up in Ellie’s kitchen, a reader who wants to make the delicious dish you are promising.

You can see from my initial notes that I recorded precise measures as my beef stew came together. Different forms of the same food occupy different volumes depending on whether they are whole, coarsely chopped, finely diced, fresh, cooked, or liquefied. A carrot cut into 1/2-inch rounds will occupy less volume than if cut into 1-inch rounds. In other words, be specific about the form of the food to be measured. Again, make these notes on that working kitchen draft, as you prepare your original recipe.

3. Use Commonly Accepted Terms To Describe Ingredient Preparation and Cooking Methods

There are worlds of differences between chopping and mincing, grilling and frying, and too many more similar terms to mention. Choosing one term instead of the other can make the difference between success and failure for the cook who wants to follow your recipe.

Fortunately, many excellent cooking term dictionaries are easily accessible on the Internet. The Good Housekeeping Dictionary of Cooking Terms is limited to the most common terms, but is a good place to start before venturing into much more in-depth dictionaries such as the Epicurious Food Dictionary.

4. Use a Template When Writing Your Recipe

Using a template makes your recipe writing process more efficient, since you don’t have to make format or organization decisions as you write. If you are interested in creating a cookbook, using a template is especially important for keeping your writing and formatting consistent across recipes.

Depending on your proficiency with word processing, you can create your own template or use one that’s been created by someone else. If you want to create your own recipe template, search the Internet for “how to create a recipe template.” If you want to use an existing template, search “recipe templates [name of word processing software you have access to]”.

Key Template Elements for Writing Recipes

  • Title
  • Image
  • Introduction
  • Equipment
  • Ingredients
  • Method
  • Serving Suggestions
  • Footer: Repeat Title and add Date and Page Number

A Downloadable Recipe Card Template

Recipe cards are great ways to share recipes with friends and family. You can use a recipe card template like this one to organize content and format and to keep your writing consistent across recipes.
Recipe cards are great ways to share recipes with friends and family. You can use a recipe card template like this one to organize content and format and to keep your writing consistent across recipes. | Source

5. Rewrite Your Draft Notes Into Recipe Form

The organization of a finished recipe is quite different from the notes you make while documenting the cooking process. That first draft is a record of the creative process, but its organization is counterproductive to creating a recipe others can follow. As you can see in the notes I took while creating my beef stew recipe, the ingredients and method are intermingled for each stage of the cooking. In the final recipe, ingredients and method as well as equipment have their own sections. Cooks expect recipes to be written in a certain order, so don’t disappoint them.

Start with the easiest elements, equipment and ingredients, which are simple lists. Be consistent with formatting and always use the full name of a measurement; for example, use tablespoon instead of tbsp, pound instead of lb. List equipment and ingredients in the order they will be used.

Next, review your creative notes and write the method steps in the order they are performed. As you review and rewrite these steps, picture in your mind what you did and how you did it. Your goal in writing these steps is to let your reader glide through them without stumbling. You achieve this excellence by imagining yourself in your reader’s shoes, anticipating what the reader needs to know.

6. Write a Brief Introduction

A good time to write an introduction is after you’ve re-written your draft notes, or even later. By that time, most of the pieces of your recipe will have come together, and you may have fresh insights about what you want to tell readers about your recipe. The introduction can include a bit of the history of your recipe, information about special features such as low-fat or sugar-free, and anything else you believe will entice your reader to make your recipe.

A bowl of the finished beef stew.
A bowl of the finished beef stew. | Source

7. Include Images

There is no doubt that food photography is an art and a profession as well, but absent a professional photographer, don’t hesitate to include your own photos or drawings of ingredients, equipment, and the finished dish. Your readers will appreciate your efforts.

When a major publisher wants to sign a contract with you for a book of your recipes, then those professional photos and drawings will happen like magic.

8. Include Serving Suggestions

This is your opportunity to help the reader complement your recipe with foods that you know add health benefits and other enhancements. What would a somewhat colorless dish of kielbasa and cabbage be without a serving of bright red pickled beets? What would a hearty beef stew be without a slice of crusty bread for sopping up the gravy? Think about how you like to serve this recipe of yours on your table. What foods and beverages enhance the appeal of your dish? Again, your readers will appreciate your suggestions.

9. Use a Spell Checker

No matter how careful you’ve been in the writing process, I guarantee a spell checker is going to find misspellings.

10. Ask for a Review from a Fresh Pair of Eyes

By the time you’ve written your recipe, spellchecked it, and re-read it too many times, you are now blind to whatever faults it may contain. Get a fresh view from eyes that are not exhausted by the process you’ve just been through. Not only will these fresh eyes find errors that you missed, they may also offer valuable insights that will serve to improve your written recipe.

The Challenges and Joys of Writing Your Original Recipes

Writing a recipe is as exacting as writing a set of instructions for constructing a building or using a piece of equipment. It is “How To” writing, which is a specific, disciplined form of writing. By following these 10 recipe-writing tips you can write recipes that anyone can follow, with success.

© 2011 Sally's Trove. All rights reserved.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Satya Prasad 3 months ago

        Well done Sally. They are great tips. I am going to use them when writing my recipes.

      • profile image

        lynda 3 months ago

        Thanks for the info., it has helped me alot

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Great tips Sally on how to write your own recipes. It's useful for those who are creative and want to keep track of their culinary creations. Voted up!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        sgbrown, ty for sharing your thoughts. :)

      • sgbrown profile image

        Sheila Brown 6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Great hub and wonderful suggestions. I sometimes forget to write down the "little things" in a recipe. This is where the note pad would be very useful. Great information, voted up and useful! Have a wonderful day! :)

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        TY for commenting, Budman610.

      • Budman610 profile image

        Budman610 6 years ago from Ohio

        Thanks! It's nice to know I am at least on the right track! Informative!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Dawn, what a great compliment your family gives you when they start eating before you can get the finished look! Glad you enjoyed this hub.

      • Dawn Conklin profile image

        Dawn Conklin 6 years ago from New Jersey, USA

        This is a great hub! I am not an expert at writing recipes, I have written a couple here. I am sure I do need better formatting and this hub will definitely help :) My problem is sometimes the finished look. My family attacks the food sometimes too quickly!

        Voted up!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Millionaire Tips, thanks so much for including this hub in your favorites list!

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

        Hi, I'm back. I wanted to let you know that this hub is included in my favorites list this week. (March 4). Congratulations!

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 6 years ago from USA

        This is a very useful article with great tips on how to write a recipe. I often fail at the first step of writing things down as I add them. When I made the Indian Potluck Curry, I had to make it several times to check the recipe, and get the photos I wanted. It is nerve wrecking to see if someone else can follow the recipe and whether they too like the results.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Diana Grant, what an insightful comment. When we are giving instructions to others, we absolutely have to have an image in our minds about what that looks like to us and what it will look like to someone else.

        I really like what you said about taking photos...not only are they memory aids for the writer, but they are also valuable visual messages for those with whom we'd like to share.

        You've given me much to think about in your comment. For example, I'll get the golf ball size long before I'll understand the "5cm x 5cm" size. As for 8 ml, well you and I don't think that way because we're on the opposite side of the pond. :) Thank you so much!

      • Diana Grant profile image

        Diana Grant 6 years ago from London

        Very sensible information, which I shall try and remember, as I am doing a series of recipes of simple food at the moment, for beginners.

        But, I must say, I sometimes prefer the more descriptive measurements, like "pieces the size of a golf ball" rather than "5cm x 5cm", which I find difficult to imagine. And when I see 8 ml of liquid, I really panic. I have no idea what it means, so I suspect my readers don't know either.

        Sometimes, instead of writing notes, I take lots of photos, and use those to remind me. It does work.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        urmilashukla23, go for it! I'm glad this hub can help you reach your goals. :)

      • urmilashukla23 profile image

        Urmila 6 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

        I love cooking. I am glad that I found your hub. So much to learn. It is my dream to publish my own cook book and you have made it easy. Thank you so much for sharing it.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Hyphenbird, I just read your Hub about spaghetti tacos. Yours is a recipe for preserving forever! It's just the ticket for kids at that age. Your son has an awesomely cool mom. And thanks so much for your gracious comments.

      • Hyphenbird profile image

        Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

        hi Sally. I created a recipe when my son asked for spaghetti tacos and published it here on HubPages. After reading this, I will download a recipe template and also include that. Thanks so much for your great advice.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Hi Peg! I really enjoyed your comment. It got me to thinking about how experienced cooks need only notes to go by in order to recreate a dish, especially a dish they've already sampled at the table of a friend or family member. I have an old-fashioned recipe box full of those smudged and spattered pieces of paper (there's a pic of it on my Hub about the original Bisquick Impossible Quiche recipe), and I don't need any more instruction than those dashes and pinches, but these days, when some folks ask me for a written recipe, I find I have to add a lot to keep them from calling me for additional directions, and then the elaborated-upon recipe becomes a Hub and gets stored electronically.

        You are so right about shadowing the cook to get accurate measurements. Good cooks have a "feel" for what they are doing, love what they do, and create a work of art. Now that I'm thinking about a great dish being a work of art, why in heaven's name would Da Vinci ever write detailed instructions for painting the Mona Lisa? lol

        Thanks for your rich comment and for the votes!

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

        I treasure the recipe cards I still have that are spattered with cookie dough and smudges of grease. But you're right about a pinch of this and a dash of that. Trying to get a family recipe with accurate measurements was tough until I shadowed the cook and wrote down exactly what they did and measured the quantities. Voted up and useful!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Recipe Gal, as I commented earlier today on one of your Hubs, I love how you show, without saying, how a good cook knows what liberties to take to get the job done (not my words there, but you know what I mean).

        Yes, there is a time to be really specific and hammer down measurements and methods...but in your Hubs, you point the reader to the original recipe, and then you talk about what you've done with it. I find your approach enormously refreshing. I think you have a "review" genre that is completely unique and ultimately of great worth.

        TY for reading and commenting.

      • Recipe Gal profile image

        Recipe Gal 6 years ago

        These are great tips! I enjoy putting recipes online, so there are definitely some things I need to consider here. Your tip about measuring ingredients is especially helpful since I often don't do that. Thanks!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
        Author

        Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        You're welcome, cheneats!

      • cheneats profile image

        cheneats 6 years ago from Sunshine State

        Sally,thank you for the "how to" instructions. This is very useful!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        You're welcome, Tony!

      • tonymac04 profile image

        Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

        Sally - thanks for the tips. I will certainly use them.

        Love and peace

        Tony

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        izettl, the recipe card templates are really handy. Glad you like them!

        Sylvia, you are so welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

      • Sylvia Leong profile image

        Sylvia Leong 7 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

        This is exactly the advice I need! Thank you so much.

      • izettl profile image

        Laura Izett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

        This is great! voted up for sure. THis is useful to me as I'm trying to write down all the recipes in my head and ones I've made up over the years.I love the recipe card template- didn't know those things existed.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Karanda, I don't think I ever heard that expression about eating with your eyes first. Thanks for that, I love it! And thanks for reading and leaving the good words.

        Peggy, every gifted cook I know is probably happier "dumping" than following a recipe. My ex is a fabulous cook who just seems to have a certain chemistry for taste...some of this, some of that, some more of this, and presto! I, on the other hand have always colored within the lines. Whatever you do, don't let writing stuff down interefere with your creativity! Maybe a voice recording device of some kind would work well for you?

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Excellent pointers! I'm what my husband lovingly calls me a "dump cook." "A little of this, a little of that" all depending upon what is on hand. Usually turns out great but it is seldom replicated. I should start writing down ingredients and estimate the amounts used in case I wish to repeat it. :-)

      • Karanda profile image

        Karen Wilton 7 years ago from Australia

        Good tips indeed. An image is so important to a recipe if it is true we eat with our eyes first.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
        Author

        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Thanks Nellieanna!

      • Nellieanna profile image

        Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

        Thumbs up!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
        Author

        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Nellieanna, I'm so glad you found this information useful. You are right, it is a mini-manual, which I think can be expanded. Thanks for the insight, because my wheels are turning!

        It wasn't until the last few years that I started getting serious about organizing and rewriting my recipes. Like you, I always wrote recipes down for myself, and scratched them out on an index card for friends and family when asked. Since they are all good cooks and had already eaten the dishes, I didn't have to be too particular about the details. Writing for someone whose expertise you don't know who does not see and taste the final product is another ball of wax. Thank you again! And best wishes to you and your granddaughters. :)

      • Nellieanna profile image

        Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

        Sally - what an outstanding mini-manual for writing one's recipes. During my more avid cooking hey-days, I wrote down many recipes of my original recipes and usually they turned out fairly well, writing-wise, as well as results for the table-wise. But your excellent tips and guidelines (not to mention the internet resources) would have been such a help! I love this! I may have to send it to my granddaughters! Thanks for your good effort!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        You are welcome, munshill.

      • munshill profile image

        munshill 7 years ago from Italy

        Thanks for your great job, may be i will try now

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        KKG, you are so right. If you don't write it down, then more often than not it's forgotten. A challenge in the kitchen is how to do that...I choose paper and pen, but keyboard protectors can keep water and foodstuffs from harming the PC or laptop keyboard. Whatever, the important thing is to write it as you do it. Thanks for your good words and for sharing your experience!

      • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

        Susan Hazelton 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

        Sally, excellent tips and advice. I find myself writing and cooking all the time. It's so hard to remember what you did later when you're sitting and eating a dish that turned out great. I can't tell you how many times I couldn't remember that new improved ongredient that I added to make an ordinary dish taste delicious. I had to start writing as I created. Wonderful hub.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        CollB, you are very welcome!

      • profile image

        CollB 7 years ago

        Thanks for these tips! I like the idea of keeping a notepad nearby when making a dish.

      • profile image

        Feline Prophet 7 years ago

        Oh, I wasn't looking for errors, ST! It's just something that occurred to me while reading your hub. You always do a wonderful job of writing. :)

        And remember, those who can't (cook), edit!! :D

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        MsLizzy, your comment made me gag in delight. Porridge, what the hell is that anyway? We need some time in the UK to understand that. Absent that trip,maybe our English Hub friends will write some Hubs to explain peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot.....was that torture?

        As for butter the size of a walnut, I know what that size is because of my Grandma Ellie. She had a few black walnut trees on the farm, and when the walnuts fell, my father would run them over with the car to break their husks to smithereens, releasing the nut inside. I'd say that's about the size of a hefty tablespoon measure. But those are Ohio walnuts. LOL

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        H,h, I am always so glad to read your comments. They make me know I've got a friend across the pond. :)

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Sally, I have folders of recipes going back some 100 years. Most are hand-written by family, friends, and me. All in all, my recipe collection is a MESS! Over the last couple of years I've been re-writing and organizing them into a collection that makes sense to me. It's a long and painful but also joyful process. Hang in there. It's worth it!

        IslandVoice, I am delighted to hear about your daughter's adventure and pleased as punch that this Hub might be useful to her. Best wishes!

        FlyingPanther, thanks so much for the good words. I would be the person to write it all down, as I see you do it. :)

        Shalini, organization is not always the companion to creativity. I share that pain with you. The right and left brain often fight each other in the battlefield that is day-to-day life. Hope this Hub helps putting recipes in order. :)

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Feline Prophet, writing is such a B****! Thank goodness for professionals like you. I needed your eagle...er...cat eye for this one. Thanks so much for your suggestion. It's been added.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
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        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Darski, thanks so much for the good words. I don't know about being a pro in the kitchen, but I do love to cook and share what I know with others. I'd be a lot happier if I had a kitchen staff to carry out my creations under my direction. Then I'd have more time for inventing. :)

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 7 years ago from Oakley, CA

        Ah, yes--I have a handful of handed-down recipes, and instructions such as, "butter the size of a walnut" drive me "nuts." ;-) (um...hello...not all walnuts are the same size...) Or, "add milk to the consistency of porridge." ???!!!

        I don't think I've ever HAD "porridge," and if they mean oatmeal...well, not everyone likes the same consistency. I like mine thick--it won't even drop off the spoon.

        LOL great pointers!

      • Sally's Trove profile image
        Author

        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Trish, you are so right, no matter how careful we are, the words can become a big blur, swimming in front of us. Feline Prophet, in her comment after yours, pointed out a significant omission in this Hub about the order in which ingredients are presented. So, even though I'd been through these words a number of times and also had them reviewed by someone else, crucial information was missing.

        It's all about anticipating what the reader needs and making good. I do love it when I catch the New York Times in a mistake! Makes me feel better.

        You may borrow my eyes any time!

      • Hello, hello, profile image

        Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

        A clearly written and detailed hub. Thank you for the good advice.

      • Shalini Kagal profile image

        Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

        Great tips, ST - thanks for making me aware that I need to get organised with my recipes!

      • FlyingPanther profile image

        FlyingPanther 7 years ago from here today gone tomorrow!!

        Great hub Sally again.Very well organise.

        Love always.

        FlyingPanther

      • IslandVoice profile image

        Sylvia Van Velzer 7 years ago from Hawaii

        My daughter who is an excellent cook is writing her first cookbook, and is so excited. I know she will enjoy your tips. Thanks for this timely piece. I will post this in my FB for her and perhaps others who may find your advice useful.

      • Truckstop Sally profile image

        Truckstop Sally 7 years ago

        Great advice. I do love to cook, and right now I have recipes stuck here, there, and everywhere. Even if I don't plan to pulish them, it would be good to get them organized. Thanks

      • profile image

        Feline Prophet 7 years ago

        As one who edits a lot of recipes in the course of work, I have to recommend your sense of order and organisation! :)

        May I be so bold as to suggest something too? It's a good idea to list your ingredients in the order in which they will be used - makes it easier for the cook!

      • Darlene Sabella profile image

        Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

        Hi Sally, great hub, and advise your a pro in the kitchen I can see that, rate up love & peace darski

      • trish1048 profile image

        trish1048 7 years ago

        Well now. Does this mean I have to go back through all my published recipes? As you well know, growing up, a pinch of this and a dash of that was simply the way preparations were explained. You make an excellent point about spelling things out for readers who aren't familiar with cooking terms.

        As for a fresh set of eyes, that is always a blessing, and something we share. At work, I often ask for someone to look over either my presentations or documents I've had to create. You are so right that after a while, all our work starts swimming before our eyes.

        PS: I will be borrowing your eyes soon :)

      • Sally's Trove profile image
        Author

        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        Ms. Anne, you are too kind, and also probably a bit prejudiced. :) I love that you are both. Thank you so much for the good words. ~Mom

      • katesn0w profile image

        katesn0w 7 years ago

        Thanks for the great advice I will defiantly check it out.

      • Sally's Trove profile image
        Author

        Sherri 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

        katesn0w, glad you find the tips useful. Be sure to check out the kitchn.com article on how to write a recipe like a pro. It's got additional excellent advice, and in a lot fewer words!

      • annemaeve profile image

        annemaeve 7 years ago from Philly Burbs

        Great advice, and so well-organized! Yet another reason why everyone loves your recipe Hubs!

      • katesn0w profile image

        katesn0w 7 years ago

        I just started writing some of my original recipes here on Hubpages. Your article has been very helpful! Thank you

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      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
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