Why a Style Guide?
Welcome! We've written this style guide to help you, the author, learn how to write a clear and engaging recipe article. Many unique formatting issues come up with recipes, and we hope that this list of guidelines will help you write more confidently.
In this guide, we'll cover the following topics:
- How to craft a good title
- Why the author bio and author photo are so important
- Photo tips
- Ingredients style
- Instructions style
Crafting a Good Title
You've taken the time to write your recipe and upload your photos—but how much thought have you put into your title? The title might be one of the most important elements of the entire article because it's often what draws a reader to your page. When readers search online for recipes, they may end up scrolling through pages and pages of results. How will they choose which recipe to click on?
Well, the title is one of the few elements of your article that actually appears on a search results page, so it's really important to think about creating one that's going to draw readers in.
Features of a Good Title
- Descriptive. If the recipe is for macaroni and cheese, make sure the title includes those words. The title is not the place to get fanciful, cute, or mysterious (e.g., "This Is the Creamiest and Most Decadent Dinner Ever").
- Specific. Compare the plain and simple "Chocolate Chip Cookies" to "Chocolate Chip Cookies With Cocoa Nibs and Slivered Almonds" or "My Granny's Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies." The latter two, which provide specific details, sound more intriguing.
- Matches the content. It's important that your title accurately reflects the content; otherwise, the reader will hit the back button. If your title promises "How to Brew Beer in Just Two Hours," but you haven't accounted for the fermentation time (which adds at least a couple of weeks), then this is a misleading title. Or if the title is "10 Creative Ways to Cook Green Beans," double-check and make sure you've actually included 10 different ways!
- Sounds natural and conversational. Try reading your title out loud. While this may sound silly, it's a great way to check to make sure it doesn't repeat phrases or sound awkward. Chances are, you'll hear this when you read it aloud to yourself or someone else.
- Isn't too long. Check the Moz title tool to make sure your title won't get truncated on the search results page. It's best if your title shows up in its entirety. If it's too long, the last part of it will be replaced by ellipses.
The Importance of the Author Bio and Photo
Readers want to see that you are a real person. This makes your article more trustworthy. Readers are more likely to read your article—and perhaps even try making your recipe—if they feel that know something about who you are.
2 Ways to Create an Effective Author Bio
- Traditional bio. You could go with something traditional and straightforward like, "I am an elementary school teacher who enjoys mountain biking, reading sci-fi, and baking yummy treats of all kinds."
- Article-specific bio. You could emphasize your personal connection to this specific recipe; e.g., "I grew up cooking at my mother's side. This recipe was a family favorite, and now my children love it, too."
Why You Should Include a Photo of Yourself
We get it. Some of us are shy and aren't sure if we want to share a photo of ourselves. Perhaps we'd rather use a photo of our dog or a generic picture of a flower. But again, the goal is to boost reader trust, and using a real photo of yourself is a great way to build trust with your readers. Trust means that the reader will be more likely to read your article.
A picture's worth a thousand words, right? Photos are especially important for recipes—readers want to see what the finished dish is going to look like.
- Final product: For recipes, there must be a photo of the final dish/product. Typically, this should be the first (top) image.
- Match: Photos must match the recipe. For example, if the photo clearly shows carrots and red peppers, those two ingredients should be listed in the recipe.
- Captions: Don't forget to add captions! Captions help explain and clarify the content of the photo, and they're an important reader-engagement tool.
- Step-by-step photos: Step-by-step photos are great in recipes because they provide a visual guide to help the home cook every step of the way. Make sure each photo is clearly captioned (this is particularly important when illustrating steps).
- Original is best: In nearly all cases, taking your own original photos is better than finding images online. Not only do original photos show the reader exactly what the recipe will look like, but they also demonstrate that you've actually made the dish you're describing. This significantly boosts reader trust.
- Make them pretty: Ok, not all of us can be professional photographers, but try to get the best shots possible. Kitchen lighting is notoriously awful, so this might mean bringing in an extra lamp when it's time to do your photo shoot. And please, keep that hand steady! Blurry photos never look good.
Ingredients Style: Quick and Dirty Guide
Presentation of ingredients
Order of ingredients
Items appear in order of usage
No missing ingredients
Make sure all ingredients are listed
Units of measurement
teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, milliliter, ounce, pound
Fractions and mixed numbers
1/2 and 1 1/2
Measurements and quantities
Use numerals; e.g., 1 banana
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Pinch of salt, Pepper to taste (capitalize first word)
Cilantro, for garnish
Capitalization of ingredients
Lowercased (except for proper nouns)
Identify in parentheses; e.g., haldi (turmeric)
Precede by comma; e.g., garlic, minced
Ingredients Style: In Depth
- Bulleted list: All ingredients should appear as a bulleted list. This makes it easier for readers to scan.
- Sequential order: Ingredients should be listed in the order in which they are used in the recipe.
- No missing ingredients: Make sure you've listed every ingredient that's needed for the recipe. Don't forget to add water or cooking oil to the list, if those are needed, too.
Units of Measurement
Spell out and lowercase all units of measurement.
- Examples: teaspoon, tablespoon, ounce, pound, gram, kilogram, milliliter, liter, etc.
Preference for American spellings
- Exception: British spellings are ok if the author is consistent throughout the article.
Fractions and Mixed Numbers
For measurements that are fractions or mixed numbers, use 1/2 and 1 1/2.
- Example: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups flour
Do not use special characters (e.g., ½).
- Exception: Special characters (e.g., ½) are ok if they are used consistently throughout the article (please don't use ½ in one instance and 1/2 in another).
Numerals vs. Spelled-Out Numbers
Use numerals for units of measurement.
- Examples: 1 banana, 2 cups flour
- NOT: one banana, two cups flour
- NOT: a banana, a couple cups flour
Unrelated numerals that appear next to each other should be separated by parentheses.
- Example: 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- NOT: 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
Use parentheses to label optional ingredients.
- Example: Walnuts (optional)
- Pinch of salt
- Pepper to taste
- Cilantro, for garnish
Sentence-style capitalization: First word capitalized; all remaining words lowercased, with the exception of proper nouns.
- Example: Large handful parsley
- Example: 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Capitalize the first word of the ingredient only if no unit of measurement precedes it.
- Example: Lime wedges, for garnish
- However, if a number precedes, do not capitalize; e.g., “2 lime wedges"
If you think readers may not be familiar with a particular ingredient, please identify it within parentheses.
- Example: haldi (turmeric)
Preparation notes should be set off by a comma.
- Example: 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped
- Example: 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions Style: Quick and Dirty Guide
Easy-to-digest, short instruction steps.
No "unused" ingredients
All ingredients in the instructions must also appear in the ingredients list (and vice versa).
Active voice. Complete and concise sentences.
6 to 8 minutes
Number of servings
4 to 6 servings [or] Serves 4 to 6
Instructions Style: In Depth
- Numbered list: Use a numbered list for easy scanning. For instructions, numbers are better than bullets because readers need to be able to keep track of where they left off.
- Manageable steps: Break up instructions into easy-to-digest steps. Each step should be relatively short and manageable.
- Example: In a mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
- NOT: In a mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together and add chocolate chips.
- No extraneous ingredients: If an item appears in the list of ingredients, make sure it's mentioned in the instructions.
- General references to ingredient categories are ok; e.g., “Add all of the herbs to the pot.”
Complete sentences: Use complete sentences rather than a shorthand style.
- Example: In a large bowl, toss the asparagus in the oil.
- NOT: In large bowl, toss asparagus in oil.
- Active voice: Use the active voice.
- Example: Sautee the vegetables for 5 minutes.
- NOT: Vegetables should be sauteed for 5 minutes.
- Clarity: Use concise, clear sentences. Here is not the place to use flowery language. Picture the home cook or baker dashing around the kitchen, checking to make sure everything's been done properly so that things don't scald or burn!
Use the special character for degrees (Mac shortcut: option + k).
- Example: 350ºF
- NOT: 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- NOT: 350 degrees F
- NOT: 350°
Note about Celcius: If you are from a country that uses this system, referring to Celcius temperatures in your recipe is ok as long as you are consistent. You might also consider providing temperature conversions to Fahrenheit (in addition), so that a broader audience may easily follow your recipe.
Use the word "to" rather than a dash.
- Example: Continue cooking for 6 to 8 minutes.
- NOT: hyphen (e.g., 6-8 minutes)
- NOT: en dash (e.g., 6–8 minutes)
Number of Servings
Use the word "to" rather than a dash.
- Example: Serves 4 to 6
- Example: 4 to 6 servings
- NOT: hyphen (e.g., 4-6 servings)
- NOT: en dash (e.g., 4–6 servings)
- Example: 9x13-inch pan
- NOT: 9-by-13-inch pan
- NOT: 9”x13” pan
- NOT: 9x13” pan
- NOT: 9x13 inch pan
Let's Get Cooking!
We hope that these tips and guidelines have given you the information you need to get started, and we look forward to seeing your fabulous recipe and food-related articles soon. Cheers!
© 2019 HubPages
LaZeric Freeman from Hammond on June 16, 2020:
Christine Hulme from SE Kent, England on January 09, 2020:
Clear and thorough advice. Thanks.
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 14, 2019:
It's good to know there's a preferred way to present our recipes. Thanks for this detailed guideline.