Sunday, November 19, 2017

Carat or Caret or Karat? These Sound-Alikes are Different

We’re looking at three sound-alike words with very different meanings to help you choose correctly among carat or caret or karat.

You’re writing a sentence and you have to choose between the words carat or caret or karat. How do you know which one is right?

English can sometimes be an incredibly complicated language.

An example of the language’s complications is the homophone. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but a different meaning and a different spelling. Similar examples that sometimes trip people up are to, too and two.

In this set of triplets, you probably will recognize two of them right away, assuming you choose the right spelling. But let’s see if you’re right:


Carat refers to the weight of precious stones and pearls. It might be said that an overly-materialistic woman might be unimpressed if presented with an engagement ring that had a diamond smaller than two carats. A carat is one of the so-called “four Cs” considered when measuring a diamond’s quality; the other three are color, cut and clarity.


A caret, (^) is a proofreader’s mark in the shape of an inverted V. It’s used below the baseline of text to indicate that additional words (written above the text on the same line) should be inserted at the point of the mark itself.

The mark may also be called a “chevron” and is sometimes referred to as a “circumflex,” and in that usage has a wide range of functions in phonetics. An example was in the early Penny Press in England when typesetters would substitute ô for the -ough combination in words like thought to save space, according to Wikipedia.


In the jewelry business, karat is used to indicate the purity of gold in an object. Something made entirely of gold — pure gold — is 24 karat. Anything less than that means the gold is combined with some sort of other metal to form a stronger alloy. Jewelry is often 10-karat or 14-karat, and the lower the karat weight, generally speaking, the lower the price and the more durable the piece will be, since gold is a relatively soft metal.

But wait, there’s another complication or two. (Surprise, surprise, right?)

In British English, carat is the preferred spelling for karat, meaning that on that side of the Atlantic, carat can refer to the weight of precious stones or peals and the proprotion of gold!

So in American English, carat and karat, both spelled with all-As, are mostly used in the world of jewelry and precious stones and metals. To remember which refers to what, remember that carat refers to stones (since C is closer to D for diamonds; and remember that karat refers to metals and K is closer to G, which could stand for gold.

The caret, then, can be remembered because of the E, which could stand for edit.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.