A recent episode of the Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek featured a hilarious exchange between actors Catherine O’Hara and Dan Levy. Watch at 1:14 in this video as they try to make sense out of a recipe direction to fold cheese into an enchilada filling.
In a recipe or any blog post, it’s important to choose words your readers can relate to and understand. Using big words or technical jargon may make you feel smart, but it’s not a smart move for connecting with your audience.
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Dianne Jacob, a popular food writer, speaker and author. Her book Will Write for Food is a complete guide to writing cookbooks, blogs, memoir, recipes, and more, and the chapter on food blogging is full of practical tips for any blog.
I asked her how food bloggers can keep their recipes accessible to everyone, even when describing techniques that usually come with more cooking experience.
“You have to know your audience,” she explained. “If they understand the term ‘fold,’ then use it. It’s not about dumbing down the language. It’s about successfully communicating with your readers.”
Yet in trying to keep language simple and straightforward, do we risk bland, boring writing that always sounds the same? This is a particular challenge for recipe writers, says Jacob. “I got frustrated by starting so many sentences with ‘Add’ in the method. I figured there had to be a better way.”
Her solution? She pored over her copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking to create a list of 100 powerful verbs for recipes. “It was a pleasure to thumb through Julia Child’s cookbook and see her mastery of language, how she was so specific in her instructions.”
When I notice I’ve repeated the same word in a post, I use the synonym finder in Microsoft Word or the research tools in Google Docs for other ideas. I’ll also type my word plus “synonym” into Google, or go right to an online thesaurus.
(For a fun way to expand your vocabulary while helping people in need, check out Free Rice. Caution – this site can be very addictive!)
Whether you’ve been blogging for years like Dianne and I, or you’re just starting out, challenge yourself to use new and different words in your blog posts. Just keep it simple so your readers stay with you.