RE: Tech writers and cookbooks

Subject: RE: Tech writers and cookbooks
From: "Bailie, Rahel" <r_bailie -at- trillium -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 13:36:48 -0800

"Steve Shepard" <STEVES -at- YARDI -dot- com> wrote in message news:89225 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
>> I'm a tech writer and I cook a lot. You would think a recipe in a
>> and writing, say, software documentation would have some similarities.
>> just as there is a fair amount of bad technical writing, cookbook recipes
>> seem to be even worse.

"Chuck Martin" replied:
> When you focus on the user's goals, and not the tasks that the user will
> doing to get to the goal, the tasks themselves usually become much

I bought a recipe book a few years ago that got rave media reviews, only to
discover that the page numbers in the index weren't even vaguely correct.
Another cookbook had only titles indexed (for example, "Surprise Hot Pot"
under "S"). Another spelled out directions rather than explain concepts, so
you never learned that steps 5-8 actually meant you making a Hollandaise
sauce to pour over what you did in steps 1-4.

What passes as cookbooks are not really *cook* books so much as recipe
books. A recipe book will tell you what ingredients to put into, say, a

particular kind of salad with lettuce. A cookbook will tell you that to get
a salad to taste right, you need to add the x amount of olive oil and toss a
minimum of 25 times, then add the x/4 amount acid (vinegar or lemon) and a
pinch of salt and toss another 25 times. That's what differentiates the two
genres. Unfortunately, as the population gets less kitchen-literate (see the
thread from a couple of weeks ago re preparation of Kraft Dinner), we are
more likely to see the "Recipes for Dummies" series than cookbooks for
inquiring minds.

Cookbook writing is a form of technical writing that could definitely be
better. A local senior STC member says her mentor is Julia Child, whom she
was recently thrilled to meet. Perhaps cookbook writing could be a new STC
contest category?

Rahel Bailie
* my opinions strictly my own *

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