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Editing, Proofreading 27/10/19

What’s the difference between a proofreader and an editor? Let the Ghostbusters help us explain…

Spengler's a straight-shooter., while Venkman likes to have more fun while busting ghosts. This is the difference between a proofreader and an editor, captured perfectly in a Ghostbusters cartoon.

Proofreader or editor?Tables showing the different responsibilities of a proofreader and an editor

Most people who are approaching a professional editing or proofreading service for the first time aren’t entirely sure which service they need. They both just check spelling and grammar and make a piece of writing better, right?

Well, not really.

That’s like saying because the Ghostbusters all catch ghosts, they do it in the same way. But we all know that’s not strictly true.

Just think about it…

Spengler is clinical, calculated, precise – concerned only with the science of busting and its correct application. Venkman, on the other hand, is up for having a bit more fun. He’s got the scientific knowledge, but he also has creativity, flair and emotional investment. Both will get the job done – ghost destroyed, world saved – but they’re driven by different forces, y’see?

So where does that fit in with what we do at Comma Chameleon?

Ray, pretend for a moment that I don’t know anything about metallurgy, engineering or physics, and just tell me what the hell is going on!


Egon Spengler is a scientist – his modus operandi is to calculate the variables, tweak the methodology and determine the outcome. He does the maths, he aims, he fires, the ghost is vanquished. No-nonsense busting.

That’s what a proofreader does. They’ll approach a brief like a scientist, using their exhaustive knowledge of the English language and applying it without compromise.  They know the minutiae – the hows and the whys – of language, and they’ll be precise and thorough in applying that to a piece of writing. They’ll spot and correct every error in typing and spelling, every missed quotation mark or erroneous apostrophe, every dangling participle and split infinitive. Nothing’s getting past these methodical Trojans.

Read: How to proofread your emails


Venkman, on the other hand, is a showman. He’s all about the creativity. He’s got the scientific knowledge and can do everything Spengler can, but he wants to have just a liiiiittle bit more fun. Why just point and shoot when you can blast a ghost to smithereens and make a beautiful mess out of it?

An editor’s job is to make your copy sing. Yes, they’ll pick up on all the spelling, grammar and punctuation errors a proofreader would, but they’re not satisfied with mere correctness – an editor aims for greatness. They’ll go deeper than the surface corrections and make changes that elevate the quality of writing. They’ll focus on flow, impact, style and expression and will reorder, rewrite and revise until they’ve turned a normal piece of copy into something that will be remembered.

‘Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a God, you say yes!’

What does all this mean for you?

Well, if you’re generally happy with the content, tone and flow of your writing, a proofreading service is your best bet – they’ll make sure everything’s perfect before you send it on its way.

If you’ve got good ideas but know there’s scope to improve how you say it, an editor is the person you’re after.

If you’re still not sure, check out our handy list of who will and won’t do what. Alternatively, just drop us a line – we’d be more than happy to help.

Want to work with us?

Give us a shout

Let’s get started!

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About Comma Chameleon

Comma Chameleon is a Manchester-based team of copywriters, editors and proofreaders, with decades of experience. We work with clients throughout the UK to bring colour to content and clarity to messages, no matter the size, format or platform. We simply love words, whether they’re yours or ours.

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