Today, I'm going to explain how to use four common (and commonly confused) homophones: carrot, caret, carat, and karat. The latter two are particularly tricky because both carat and karat are pretty much only used to describe jewelry—but they do have distinct meanings. By the end of this post, you'll be using all four of these same-sounding words correctly!
The spelling carrot refers to the common garden vegetable. It is technically an herb, but we usually don't eat the herb part (i.e., the leaves), even though they are edible; we usually eat the root. A carrot is typically orange—and indeed, the word can also refer to a particular shade of orange—but there are also yellow and purple varieties (among other colors). You're no doubt familiar with this vegetable:
Ringo has an excellent recipe for slow-glazed carrots. Valerie's carrot-colored dress drew the eyes of all the other partygoers.
This is the homophone that is least likely to be confusing, but if you are ever unsure, just remember that a carrot will rot if left out in the sun, and this spelling ends in "rot."
The spelling caret refers to the "^" symbol (shift+6 on most English keyboards). This symbol is typically used in editing to indicate text that is to be inserted; the point of the caret goes below the place where the new text is to be added. This symbol is also used in various computer interfaces to indicate that additional information is available; users typically click on the symbol to get the information.
After the editor finished, Anna's manuscript was full of insertions marked with carets. To learn more, click the button with the "^" symbol (which is known as a caret).
To keep caret straight from its homophones, remember that it is spelled with an "e"—which you can think of as standing for "editing," as that is the main context in which you use this word.
Carat vs. Karat
I'm going to address these words together because they are very commonly confused, even by highly skilled writers. This is very understandable, as these words have the same root and are both used predominantly to refer to jewelry. Adding another wrinkle is that karat can also be spelled as carat (but not vice versa).
The spelling carat refers to the mass of precious stones; 1 carat is equal to 200 milligrams. Thus, a gem that has a mass of 1 gram could also be listed as "5 carats." Do not use the spelling with a "k" to refer to the mass of a stone.
By contrast, the spelling karat refers to the purity of gold. Each karat is equal to 1/24 part pure gold, so 100% pure gold is 24 karat, and 18-karat gold (which is very common) is 75% pure. This word can also be spelled with a "c" (as carat), but I'd strongly recommend that you only use the spelling with a "k" to refer to gold purity. This helps keep the two meanings distinct and minimizes the likelihood of confusion.
Here are some examples:
A quarter-carat diamond weighs only 50 milligrams but can cost over $400. Some electronics require 24-karat gold as a coating to prevent corrosion. Each earring has an 18-karat gold setting containing twin 0.3-carat amethysts.
There are no easy ways to keep these spellings straight, unfortunately. If pressed, I might say that Fort Knox is famous for storing gold, and both that fort's name and karat contain a seemingly out-of-place "k." (Let me know in the comments if you can think of a better mnemonic!)
That's all for today. Please let me know if you need any additional explanation, or if you have suggestions for other difficult homonyms that I can help with. You can leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading, and please visit ElevationEditing.com the next time you need high-quality editing services.