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Dummy Text: A Brief History

It’s Origin, Purpose, and Most Common Renditions

Lorem Ipsum

The most well known placeholder text is lorem ipsum, which you can find below. Lorem ipsum text is latin, and comes from an ancient text on the theory of ethics written by Cicero.

Lorem Ipsum HTML

Using filler text with HTML markup allows you to see how each HTML element is going to render. In this box you can see HTML ready for you to copy and paste into your HTML editor.

Lorem Ipsum Text

If you’d rather use a copy of lorem ipsum that doesn’t include HTML markup such as for use in a Word document, WYSIWYG editor, or WordPress’s visual editor, you can use this version.

Lorem ipsum dolor

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

  • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet
  • consectetur adipiscing elit

Lorem ipsum dolor

  1. sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua
  2. Ut enim ad minim veniam

Lorem ipsum dolor

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.


The History of Filler Text

Filler text goes by many names: dummy text, greek copy, greeking, and lorem ipsum just to name a few. It’s grown to become something of an artform, and there are countless filler text generators sprinkled around the web that provide a modern take on this classic staple of the design industry. However, these new alternatives often incorporate humor or other content that actually detracts from the primary purpose of filler text: to be unobtrusive, yet provide the feel, look, and texture of filler text.

To avoid creating a distraction, when starting a new design project, we always go back to one of the old mainstays: lorem ipsum or li Europan lingues. Both have realistic-looking sentence structure and word shape, but are foreign languages that won’t create a distraction during a design review meeting.

Lorem Ipsum & Li Europan Lingues

Lorem ipsum is the filler text most people are familiar with, and if you’ve spent any time at all poking around the internet you’ve surely seen the words lorem ipsum before. While often referred to as greek copy or greeking, lorem ipsum is actually latin, and originates from a work by Marcus Tullius Cicero that dates all the way back to 45 BC.

Now obviously in 45 BC Cicero didn’t consider this text to be a work of non-sensical design copy. On the contrary, the original source’s title is translated as “On the Extremes of Good and Evil” and does some serious philosophical heavy-lifting in the area of ethics. No, poor Cicero’s masterpiece wasn’t manhandled into unintelligible space-filling mumbo-jumbo until sometime in the middle ages when a typesetter, seeking copy that would highlight different fonts without being distracting, plucked the passage out of the original work and co-opted it for his own marginalizing purposes.

The original source of another common paragraph of dummy text, li Europan lingues, is harder to pin down. It often appears adjoined to a lorem ipsum paragraph, and our best guess is that it traces it’s roots back to William Patterson, who may have created it in 1998. However, Patterson himself credited S.W. Beer as the source of the original text, and if there has been a successful effort to pin down that credited source we couldn’t find it.

To Every Opinion There is an Equal and Opposite Difference of Opinion

If you’re thinking that filler text seems pretty boring and uncontroversial, you’d be wrong.

Surprisingly, there is a very vocal faction of the design community that wants to see filler text banished to the original sources from whence it came. Perhaps not surprisingly, in an era of endless quibbling, there is an equally vocal contingent of designers leaping to defend the use of the time-honored tradition of greeking.

The argument in favor of using filler text goes something like this: If you use real content in the design process, anytime you reach a review point you’ll end up reviewing and negotiating the content itself and not the design. This will just slow down the design process. Design first, with real content in mind (of course!), but don’t drop in the real content until the design is well on it’s way. Using filler text avoids the inevitable argumentation that accompanies the use of real content in the design process.

Those opposed to using filler text of any sort counter by saying: The ultimate purpose of any digital product, whether a website, app, or HTML email, is to showcase real content, not to showcase great design. You can’t get a true sense for how your content plays with your design unless you use the real thing!

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Before things get too heated, let us jump in and say that both sides make valid points. Using real content during design can distract designers and design review teams alike away from the design, and insisting on always using publication-ready content can be a real drag on the design process. On the other hand, if you use poorly formatted filler text you may get a completely false sense of how your design will interact with real content.

We propose a compromise: Only use filler text that has been edited for length and format to match the characteristics of real content as closely as possible, and use real content where possible, and where it doesn’t create too much distraction.

Relax and do whatever fits with your design process. Don’t set a lot of restrictive hard-and-fast rules. Use filler text where it helps your design process, but use real content if you’ve got it, as long as it doesn’t distract and slow down your design process.

Design is an evolutionary process, and filler text is just one tool in your progress-pushing arsenal. Use it where it makes sense to use it, and pull it once the natural process indicates that it’s time to roll out a descendant built with real content.