Expressing sarcasm in the written word can be a dangerous business, as anyone forced to apologise for sending a tongue-in-cheek email will confirm.
Now a US firm has come up with an ingenious solution to this very real problem – a new item of punctuation.
The SarcMark, as it has been named, is designed to be used in the same way as an exclamation or question mark.
Anyone concerned that the irony of their email or text message might not be appreciated by its recipient can use the symbol to close their sentence, thereby avoiding awkward misunderstandings.
The symbol – a dot inside a single spiral line – can be installed onto any PC running Windows 7, XP or Vista, as well as Macs and Blackberry mobile devices.
It can then be used in Word documents, instant messenger conversations, Outlook email and other programmes, just by pressing Ctrl and the full stop button.
The Michigan company behind the SarcMark have applied for a patent to protection their invention.