I know what you’re thinking.

If you’re new here (and if you’re reading this post, you likely are), I’d bet that you’re scratching your head at the two words you see at the top of your browser window.

“Green Caret”? That’s weird. What in blazes does that mean? Is that even spelled right? Or wait — surely he’s not talking about vegetables. Is he? Is this some bizarre metaphor? Or is this guy just a little crazy?

Fair questions, every one. Let me see if I can explain.

I cut my professional proofreading teeth at a couple places: at an engineering firm and in the publishing industry. When I freelanced for the book publisher (ever hear of the “Dummies” books?), I was asked to use a red pencil, and I didn’t give it much thought. At the engineering firm, when I pinch-hit for the full-time proofreader, I used her pen of choice, a bright pink Uniball. In both cases, the aim was obvious: to make your edits as hard to overlook as possible.

But in both jobs, I couldn’t help feeling a little twinge whenever I marked up a particularly, shall we say, troubled document. I come from a whole family of teachers, and there was no denying it: it looked like I’d been grading papers. And that comparison didn’t sit well with me.

In college, my favorite professor, who taught English and writing and became a good friend, graded with a collection of felt-tip calligraphy pens. Don’t misunderstand — she didn’t write with ornate lettering or elaborate flourishes — rather, her comments appeared in the margins in a legible and distinct but ordinary cursive hand. Sometimes the ink was brown or black or green; most often it was blue. But she steered clear of red, and that seemed to make her feedback a little easier to swallow. (Her personality, of course, had much to do with that, but the blue ink didn’t hurt.)

Years later, when I landed my first full-time editing job, it was a brand-new position. The company had never had a proofreader or editor before. I was nervous (heck, I was in my twenties). Wanting to put my best foot forward — and not wanting to be pigeonholed as the schoolteacher on the fourth floor — I decided to follow my professor friend’s example and forgo the adversarial red pen. So I considered my other options: Black? Blue? Too ordinary, and too easy to overlook. Purple? Too weird. Pink? Hard to read. That pretty much left green. So when I placed my first request for office supplies, I asked for a dozen green ballpoints. And my die was cast.

I’ve been using green pens at work ever since. I’ve changed models a few times, but I use green almost exclusively. Since I work in marketing, folks joke about how it’s my brand. They’re right, of course.

And what about the “caret” part? A caret is a proofreader’s mark that looks like a small wedge or arrowhead (like this: ^). It’s used in the business to indicate a place where something should be added: a missing comma, a left-out letter, a suggested sentence. It’s one of the most commonly used marks in an editor’s arsenal — and, as my colleagues over the years have discovered, I give it quite a workout. And since I’m recognized for my green pen, well, there you have it: the green caret.

The green caret is a symbol that puts a personal spin on what I do. But it also represents what this blog’s about. Here I hope to weigh in on a range of topics, most of them related to editing, proofreading, and working with words in general. Check back from time to time, and see if you like what you read. Respond in the comments, or shoot me a message here. I’ll do my best to reply. After all, I’ve become known as the guy who always has something to add.