Back to the Future: Tips for Editors from The Editorial Eye (January 1990)

by Beth McAuley

Published at 2014-09-18

The Editorial Eye was a professional newsletter for editors and writers published by the Editorial Experts, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia. I began subscribing to the newsletter in 1990 when I launched my editing career. Topics covered in each of the issues ranged from copy editing to proofreading to substantive editing to newsletter design to technological developments. There were grammar tips and grammar glitches, book reviews and word plays. Each issue was educational, informative, and inspiring. Needless to say, the newsletter won numerous awards for excellence over the course of its history.
I continued my subscription until the newsletter ceased independent publication in 2008 (see A Brief History below). Over this past summer, we took the collection out of the archival boxes and re-filed them into binders organized by topic. The binders are in full view in the office for easy reference. As we review and read from this amazing collection, we’ll be writing blogs describing some of what we are rediscovering.
What Editors Will Need to Know in the 1990s
Remarkably, much of the content from this January 1990 issue reflects the topics of several seminars offered at the Editors’ Association of Canada conference held in June of this year. (Read my blog “Adapt and Flourish” for an overview.)
In the lead article, “What Editors Will Need to Know in the 1990s,” Claire Coyne identifies what’s in store for editorial professionals as we move toward the new century.
The biggest change taking place? Technology and competiton.
Coyne undertook a survey with the Society for Technical Communication members to find out “how technology would affect the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of editorial professionals at all experience levels.” The responses repeatedly identified that the skills and responsibilities of publication staff would have to become more interchangeable as technology increased the need for efficiency.
Here were some of the major changes they saw taking place (I am using the original tense forms here):
*Technical skills have begun to replace communication skills.
*Increased productivity has become the credo.
*Flexibility and willingness to learn will be critical.
*Visual presentations will become even more popular.
*Cross-cultural communication will become necessary.
In her conclusion, Coyne notes that “publishing is much better positioned than other industries to adapt to change” because we will always need to communicate. “And we will continue to depend on the skills of editors, writers, and graphic artists to record, clarify, and illustrate that communication.”
She also points out—as did the EAC conference—that editorial professionals will have to broaden their skills, to learn new processes, develop computer skills, and understand the entire scope of a project rather than one portion of it.
Sound familiar? It’s 24 years later and we’re living the change.
Getting Your Time’s Worth
I wanted to mention one other column contained in this edition because it also reflects how we have adapted to technological change. These tips were taken from Management Ideas That Work by Roger Fritz:
  • Know how valuable one hour of your time is: should you photocopy 200 pages of galleys or let the editorial assistant do it.
  • Carry a notebook throughout the day to take notes, makes lists, and jot down ideas. “Daytimer” planning notebooks are the best but a wire-bound theme book would work just as well.
  • Always carry professional reading materials for spare moments on the subway.
  • Plan your day on paper or in your head before you reach the office.
  • We circulate galleys by PDF whenever possible. (Although, editorial assistants most likely still photocopy when necessary.)
  • Notebooks for sure, but wire-bound no more!
  • No problem! We travel with personal libraries on our iPads and tablets.
  • Essential beginning to each day, but now I send emails to myself with my to-do lists.
A Brief History
The Editorial Eye was founded in the 1980s by the late Laura Horowitz. Until 2008, it was published by EEI Communications (formerly Editorial Experts). In 2008, the newsletter became a part of McMurry's newsletter operation.
McMurry merged the Eye with its Copyediting (formerly Copy Editor) and ContentWise (formerly Publications Management) newsletters. 
Contentwise can be found at
From what I can tell, the old Editorial Eye and all that it offered to editors no longer exists within this publication.

EEI Communications continues to offer its own wide array of workshops on editing, editorial management, and Adobe and other computer programs.  For more information about EEI Communications, visit its website at

I wonder what editors will be writing about and how they'll be writing in the future of tomorrow.