In praise of Lorem

Misleading placeholder text can cause problems. Luckily, there's an elegant solution - one that's been around for centuries. Here's why Lorem ipsum is so useful...

 In praise of Lorem

Placeholder or dummy text is put in wireframes or designs to illustrate how text will appear in a final version of a site. It’s there for a good reason – without copy to populate text fields it’s impossible for designers and clients to check sizes and fonts.

But, as most copywriters will find, placeholder copy can cause a surprising amount of difficulty, especially considering that it’s not even meant to be read.

The problem with placeholders…

Placeholder text can originate from design, UX or copy teams. It tends to come in one of two forms:

Bad placeholder text
Misspelled, irrelevant or out-of-date content copied and pasted from a random source or authored by a non-writer.

Good placeholder text
This is far worse than bad placeholder text. It looks plausible – it might have been copied from existing content, or content from a related site. It might be well written. In fact, it’s so good, it could end up being uploaded. The only problem is that it’s not actually the right content.

For copywriters, bad dummy text doesn’t cause much difficulty.

Good placeholder text, on the other hand, can be a headache because we can find ourselves lulled into making assumptions based on something that’s not real or relevant.

For clients, it’s the same story. Whether they see good or bad dummy text, they often find they simply can’t ignore it. In fact, it can be impossible to persuade them that this isn’t how the copy will really be written.

Misleading dummy text can derail important meetings and presentations, and even though copywriters didn’t always create it, it often becomes the copywriters’ problem because… well, because dummy text is copy.

Reasons to love Lorem

All these are reasons why Lorem ipsum lives on. And why we should always use Lorem or advise that it's used as the default option for placeholder copy.

Lorem ipsum is a scrambled Latin text based on something written by Cicero in the first century BC. It first came into frequent use as dummy text in the 1960s. It endures today because, while it clearly shows what text will look like in situ, it’s impossible for anyone – clients, copywriters or uploaders – to mistake Lorem for the real thing.

Lorem doesn’t have to be used on its own; you can give an idea of the positioning of messages by adding dummy headings to it, but it makes certain that no one makes assumptions or judgements about copy before it’s actually written, and that no one is misled.

Make your own Lorem

It’s simple to Lorem it yourself. Just put =lorem() into Word and press Enter. Hey presto, you’ve generated 3 paragraphs of dummy text.

So spread the word. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Nunc viverra imperdiet enim. Fusce est.