What Are Carets ( ^ ) And How Do You Use Them?

The caret is a symbol you probably won’t have to type very often. If you ever see it, you might think your eyes are playing tricks on you because you didn’t eat enough carets—er, carrots. All jokes aside, it is true that the caret is rarely used, and it only has a few niche uses in writing. Still, it is good to know how we might use this symbol so that you don’t get confused if you ever see it used out in the wild.

What is a caret?

A caret (^) is a symbol that has a variety of uses in different fields, such as mathematics or computer programming. In writing, carets are most commonly used in proofreading.

When do you use a caret?

The caret is a typographical symbol, not a punctuation mark, and it sees no grammatical usage in formal writing. However, it is commonly used in proofreading and has a few uses in informal writing.


Carets are used in proofreading to signal where additional words or punctuation marks should be added to a line of text. For example, let’s say you have a sentence that looks like this:

  • I breakfast this morning. 

When looking over this sentence, a proofreader would mark it like so:

  • I ^ate breakfast this morning.

This means that the proofreader thinks the word ate should be added into the sentence. Proofreading marks are typically used much more often when editing handwritten works, such as academic essays, than online writing.


Sometimes, a caret is used to indicate that a number should be read as an exponent. This usage is generally avoided in formal writing, but it might be necessary if a writer is unable to use superscripts.

  • Original: The math problem asked what 23 was equal to.
  • Alternative using a caret: The math problem asked what 2^3 was equal to.

Informal usage

The caret has a few common uses in informal writing. In online forums or social media boards, a caret or multiple carets can be used to point to a previous comment or post. For example,

  • Original post: Internet prices are way too high these days.
  • Reply: ^^^ I agree with this.

Like many other symbols, carets are often used in texting and online chats to make emoticons:

  • Today was the best day ever! ^_^ #vacation 
  • (^◡^ ) Good morning everybody! (^◡^ )

Take this quiz to see how much you know about the caret symbol and other typographical symbols.

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What do you use the pound symbol for? Find out here.

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