Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Pot Roast in Plain Language: Dinner Is Served

In my last two posts I offered a challenge to rewrite a recipe using some plain language techniques, and then I posted my version of the revised recipe. If you’ve paid attention, you’ve noticed that the second version is longer than the first–by over 100 words! So how could rewriting something using plain language make it longer? Isn’t plain language supposed to make something shorter? What gives? When Longer Is Better Writers who want to condense what they want to say often use the telegraphic style or load several steps on to one line of text. Our recipe did both. For the intended audience of a cookbook, experienced cooks, this shorthand presents no problem. But for new …

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized.

The Pot Roast, Revisited

Yesterday I served up a recipe and asked you to slice and dice it to remove any embedded or hidden steps, as well as the telegraphic writing style, from the instructions. Now that you’ve marinated in the process for 24 hours, it’s time to take the dish out of the oven to see what we’ve cooked up. Here is the new set of instructions. I’ve given each step its own line, and I’ve added any words necessary to remove the telegraphic style. Look for the blue text to see what I’ve changed in these instructions. Slice the onions. Place the meat in the slow cooker. Place the onions on top of the meat. Combine the brown sugar, …

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized.

Practice Your Procedure Writing with Pot Roast

I started cooking in my thirties, and I learned through trial by (actual) fire: My kitchen mistakes include several burnt dinners and one small kitchen fire. The kitchen fire was my fault, but I blame my burnt dinners on the people who write recipes. Here’s what I mean. Recipes use a certain writing style. This style is both telegraphic and obscure. Having blundered because of this style, I think rewriting recipes is excellent training for any plain-language writer. The Situation Consider the following recipe. It uses telegraphic style and what I call “embedded” and “hidden” steps—presumably to save space on the page. Experienced cooks use the recipe without incident. New …

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized.