Sarcasm Punctuation? Like We Really Need That

Michigan company says SarcMark should be official punctuation mark for sarcasm.

ByABC News
January 17, 2010, 10:33 AM

Jan. 18, 2010— -- Watch out, :-)

Stand aside, j/k.

There's a new kind of punctuation in town and it wants sarcasm for its own.

Launched last week by Washington, Mich.-based Sarcasm, Inc., the SarcMark wants to be the official symbol for sarcasm in electronic communication.

Forget the makeshift emoticons and abbreviations we use now to denote sarcasm, the father-son company behind the SarcMark says "equal rights for sarcasm."

"Questions have the question mark, exclamations have the exclamation point," said Paul Sak, 63, co-founder of SarcMark. "We're promoting the SarcMark as the 21st century's punctuation."

Sak said his son Doug, 34, first suggested the idea eight years ago. Though Paul Sak was skeptical at first, he eventually came around.

In e-mails, text messages and other forms of typed communication, he said people can't hear another's inflection and might miss the sarcasm.

Though some might use smiley faces, electronic winks or j/k (for "just kidding") to avoid confusion, Sak said they're not good enough. Sometimes smiley faces don't show up in text, he added, and do you really want to overload your boss with cutesy emoticons?

"We just feel that if the SarcMark is accepted as the punctuation mark for sarcasm it's a little easier and a little more meaningful," Sak said.

So his son designed the symbol -- a period surrounded by a swirl (somewhat resembling @) -- and the two secured a design patent and trademark for it.

"There was specific criteria," he said. "He wanted it to be the same size and width as other punctuation. ... He wanted something with a period in it, like the question mark and exclamation point."

But here comes the catch: If you want to use the SarcMark, you have to pay up: $1.99 to download the software that enables Windows users to insert the symbol by pressing the "CTRL" key and the "." key.

The software is also available for the BlackBerry, and Sak said versions for Mac and iPhone users are on the way.

So far, Sak said the SarcMark has been downloaded about 600 times and he's hopeful that momentum will continue to build.