How to Use a Caret

Carets, or curcumflex, have a few uses in writing. This is a grammar guide to using a caret.

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The caret, also known as the circumflex, (^) is a piece of punctuation that you may not have had many dealings with. Even though it isn’t used particularly frequently in English anymore, it still does have its use.

The first of these is for mathematical notation. The caret indicates to the power of. So, 2^5 is saying two to the power of five. The other usage is writing in different languages, like French, where it sits over a letter to denote an accent or inflection.

Unless you’re writing in different languages or writing equations, the main way that you’re going to come across this symbol is through handwritten editing.

John went to shop.

If given this sentence, an editor who is looking at on the page rather than a screen they will note the missing word with a caret, usually.

John went to^the shop

There are also different notations that are used to denote missing punctuation marks. Personally, I have never seen these be used in this fashion but you can indicate that a comma should be inserted by writing a comma inside of the caret and placing it where the comma should be at the bottom of the line, an apostrophe in an upside down caret above the line where the apostrophe should be and speech/quotation marks in an upside down caret at the top of the line where they should be. This does help the edit stand out when people are reviewing what has been written on the page as just writing in the punctuation may be missed and not rectified. Having said that, so does using a different colour pen and more people are likely to understand what is meant by that. If, however, you’ve sent some work to an editor who works by hand and they’ve included those notations, that’s what they mean.

The caret is not generally used in practical fiction writing in English but it is used quite heavily in by hand editing.

Davina Chime is a Thanet-born hopeless romantic.

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