I'm so upset. I can't believe I didn't think of it myself. Last week, one of my students came into class and said, "Miss Ardis, have you seen the SarcMark?"

I was rushing to take attendance and get class started. "The WHAT?"

"The SarcMark," he repeated.

"What in the world is the SarcMark?" I asked.

"It's a new punctuation mark," he told me. "You use it when you've written something sarcastic and you want the person reading your email or text to know it."

Since sarcasm runs in my family, I loved the idea immediately, but it got me wondering for a moment how a person goes about inventing a new punctuation mark. I had to get our lesson moving, but I promised to look into it, my curiosity definitely piqued.

That afternoon, I was in the teachers' lounge grading papers when our school's creative writing teacher, Jennifer Rodriguez, said, "Hey Chris, have you heard about the SarcMark? It's really cool."

We launched into a discussion about this 2010 addition to punctuation, and actually had a laugh about it. Later, I logged on to the web site at www.sarcmark.com. I laughed again when I learned that the company that created it is Sarcasm, Inc. out of Michigan, though I must admit it surprised me that they didn't turn either "a" in the company name into a SarcMark or add one at the end of "Inc." On the site, you can see exactly how the SarcMark is made if you're writing it yourself. You start off as if you're going to make a circle, but instead of closing the circle, you dip down a bit to make a swirl. Then, just below the tip of the swirl, you add a dot.

If you're like me, you're itching to try the SarcMark out, if only for the fun of it. Not so fast. First you have to pay $1.99 to download it either to your computer or to your cell phone. If you want it on both, you have to pay twice and get two different codes.

Once you pay, the company sends you a code to download it. After that, it's a quick key stroke. For this column, I hit the Windows patch and the "." (period) key on my computer, and voilà (Which reminds me I still hear so many people say, "Wala." The word is French, voilà, meaning that something appeared as if by magic.) For emails, I hit the Control key and the "." key and it will allow those who do not have the SarcMark installed to see it, too.

If nothing else, it's rather comical having a punctuation mark when I want to be a bit sarcastic. After all, sarcastic people are a joy to be around™ They're just a laugh a minute™

I apologize for taking up most of this month's Grammar Guardian with the SarcMark, but I wanted my fellow Guardians to know about the latest punctuation craze.

Before closing, I must cover two common errors that are going to be the death of one of the Valley's most faithful Grammar Guardians. I promised I would cover them this month. The first is the difference between "advise" and "advice." I must admit I see these two mixed up quite often. One of my students came up with a rather clever explanation recently. He said, "One is what you do and the other is what you get." You "advise" a person about the highest rated small car or which store carries the freshest bread. The information you give them is your "advice." Notice "advise" is a verb.

Finally, be sure you know the difference between "lead" and "led." When using the verb, as in "I will lead the way to the meeting," the past tense is always "led." Thus, I would say, "I led the way to the meeting." So many people use "lead" as a present and past tense verb. I believe they do so because the metallic element "lead" is pronounced "led" but spelled "lead." Again, when using the verb, the present tense is "lead" and the past tense is "led."

Until next month, please continue to guard our grammar. (Notice there's no SarcMark. I'm serious.)

Send an email to Chris at cardis1022@aol.com or visit her web site at chrisardis.com.