Poor Proofreading Is A Bad Recipe When Self-Publishing Cookbooks

Bad Proofreading Is A Poor Recipe

An often overlooked genre of self-publishing is cookery books and ebooks and recipe and food blogs.

Seeing as though publishing a cooking or, more correctly, a cookery book before the advent of self-publishing required getting an agent and publisher, these books and their accompanying blogs fall fairly and squarely into today’s self-publishing market.

Recipe sites on the Internet are probably among the most numerous of any single topic. Cookery books now abound in ebook form on Kindle and are normally promoted for sale from the author’s recipe or food blog.

They mostly follow a similar pattern with a backstory about the recipe, multiple images using excellent photography, which is, of course, the key to success for all food-related sites and books, and most importantly, the recipe.

The poor proofreading process

But oh dear, when it comes to the nitty-gritty, the recipe, many fail abysmally because of poor proofreading and writing skills.

There are often many kinds of errors.

Not only grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

It is clear that some food bloggers spend no time at all on proofreading.

I am not saying that these bloggers need to use a proofreading service, but paying a little extra care and attention to the text would make such a difference.

Even just a quick check with a free online grammar checker only takes a few minutes.

It will find most grammar, spelling, punctuation, and typographical errors.

I am a lover of cooking, as is my wife, and we often email recipes to each other that we have discovered.

But when it comes to reproducing these recipes in the kitchen, disappointment and unpleasant surprises can be in store.

While I can’t say scientifically, I would estimate that 20-25% of the recipes we have used over the years from the Internet have suffered from poor editing and proofreading and contained at least one of the following basic errors.


The ingredients don’t match the method

After preparing all the ingredients, it’s not a pleasant surprise to find out when you have almost finished cooking the dish that some of the ingredients don’t rate a mention in the method.

I have half a cup of finely chopped shallots and a quarter of a cup of Japanese soy sauce ready, but what do I do with them now? When do I add them?

Right, they probably should have been added back at the beginning with the minced ginger, I guess. Too late now.

Some recipes fail on basic grammar mistakes in the ingredient list such as ‘1 tomatoes’ or ‘3 apple’ — an immediate source of confusion.

Or worse still, once you have all the ingredients ready and have started cooking, a new and totally surprising ingredient suddenly pops up in the method that failed to get a mention in the list of ingredients.

Yeah, right, like where am I going to find anchovy fillets at this time of the night? So you ruined my dish. Thanks for forgetting to include them in the ingredient list and not proofreading and finding errors in your recipe.

Recipes don’t need professional proofreading.  All that needs to be done is to read the recipe text carefully and slowly, line by line, and sentence by sentence.

There’s no need to use proofreading or editing services to check that all the ingredients in the method are in the ingredients list.


How much do I need?

Another proofreading faux pas is when it comes to quantity, and far from uniform abbreviations.

If one can’t abbreviate correctly, use the full word. 1/4 tbls or tbl or tbs of salt is pretty nasty on the palate when it should have read 1/4 tspn or tsp.

In a few recipes I have read, these abbreviations are sometimes inconsistent within the ingredient list. Very confusing.

Why not write a teaspoon? Or a tablespoon if your recipe really calls for that much salt, or you aren’t sure how to check for standard cooking abbreviations.

A pinch, perhaps? A quarter of a tablespoon of salt in pancakes? Yuck!


How long?

Then there are important instructions such as cooking time.

Every traditionally published cookery book went through the hoops before publishing.  The recipes were cooked and tested from the manuscript. If one didn’t work, it meant edits and amendments.

Using only a memory of how long your grandmother cooked her Irish Stew for is not accurate enough. Perhaps she had a wood fire, and we have electricity, gas, and microwave ovens now.

The stated temperature and cooking time in a recipe should not be based on memory, guesswork, and approximation.

How many self-publishing cooks and chefs test their recipes after they have written them?

From my experience, quite a number could not have done so. Testing a written recipe is very similar to proofreading.

It’s also easy to do and a very good check of the accuracy of the written recipe.

Even better, get someone else to try it to see if the recipe works for them.

And if this is not practical to arrange, find someone to proofread the recipe for you, and set aside half an hour to proofread it yourself.

It would be so much kinder to readers who are trying to follow your recipes if the ingredients and method matched up.

But hey, yes, the photos are really nice.



No matter what type of blog, online proofreading can eliminate most grammar and punctuation errors. You don’t need to know a grammar rule to fix your text.

You don’t need a copy editor. Nor professional editors and proofreaders. You only need a free online grammar and spelling checker.

It only takes a few minutes to run a spell checker and correct any spelling errors. Online editing tools can help correct grammar, punctuation, syntax, and simple typos.

There is no excuse for poor proofreading.

But with a little care and attention to detail, it can go a long way in pleasing your readers.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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4 thoughts on “Poor Proofreading Is A Bad Recipe When Self-Publishing Cookbooks

  • Avatar for Lindsay Bamfield
    September 13, 2021 at 6:54 am

    Shame an article on proofreading confuses palette with palate.

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      September 13, 2021 at 8:23 am

      Thanks for noticing the error. At least it tells me that you read the article carefully. I have made the correction.

  • Avatar for Will Vigar
    January 2, 2020 at 8:51 am

    I bought a self-published keto cookbook recently. Almost every instance of the phrase ‘low carb’ was misspelt as ‘low crab’. Mind you, I also bought a cookery book from a reputable publisher and the index was a mess. Recipes were called something different in the index to what was on the page; page numbers didn’t match up to their position in the book; numerous recipes appeared in the index that were not included in the body text. And that’s before we get to the problems mentioned in the article!

  • Avatar for Melody Woodall-Smith
    April 11, 2017 at 10:01 am

    As a proofreader I couldn’t​ agree more!


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