Vocab Lesson 9: Dummy Copy aka

Vocab Lesson 9: Dummy Copy aka "Lorem Ipsum"

No, it's not a journalism version of those how-to "for dummies" books ... dummy copy, or dummy text, is fake text that designers use as a placeholder for the real story. It is also referred to as filler copy, placeholder text, greeking and lorem ipsum (more details on that term later). Does your publication staff or professor call it something else? Tell us what in the comments section below.

But why wouldn't you use the real thing, you ask?

Oftentimes due to the tight schedules of magazines, you'll have to design and layout pages before the writer is finished writing the story. Until the rough draft or final version comes to you, you'll use dummy copy to get started. Usually the editor of the story knows approximately how long the final copy will be, and he/she will give you a word count. This way you'll know just how much copy you're dealing with, which can greatly influence your design. If you have to fit a 2,000-word story into 3 pages, that leaves a lot less room for photos and design elements than if you had 4 or more pages.

So let's say you're an intern who's getting their first shot at designing some pages, or maybe you're designing a magazine story for a class project, or maybe you're designing your, ahem, SPD Student Design Competition entry (competition details to be announced soon!) ... just where do you get this dummy copy from, anyway?

If you do a Google search for dummy copy, you'll get all kinds of text generators. Usually these come in the form of "Lorem Ipsum." Uh, what? Yeah, sounds foreign cause it is ... it's Latin, or at least it's based on Latin (on writings of Cicero, to be exact). This Latin text is used because -- at a glance -- it closely resembles a typical real story in terms of spacing, word lengths, sentence patterns, etc. But since it's not actual readable text, the viewer can focus on your design and not the wacky things the fake text is saying.

One great site to get this "Lorem Ipsum" text is here. But really the easiest way to get it, if you're using InDesign, is within the program itself. Put your cursor in your text block, then go under the TYPE menu and choose "Fill with Placeholder Text" and ta-da! You have dummy copy.

Aside from using "Lorem Ipsum," you can also use actual copy from something else (your history paper, perhaps?) to fill the space, copying and pasting and deleting to make it the length you need. Either of those 2 options is preferred to simply pressing all the keys on your keyboard and typing out gibberish ... while that is a last-resort option, especially in smaller blocks of copy like captions, the previous options are preferred because they don't create weird spacing and odd letter combos that can distract your eye from seeing and evaluating your design.

When you become a fellow type geek like us, you'll want these fun "lorem ipsum" products like the t-shirt shown above, from Veer. 

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Want more? Check out our previous Vocab Lessons:

"Vocab Lesson" is a recurring feature on our SPD Student Blog. Tune in every Wednesday for a new word of the week. And if you come across a term you can't quite figure out, email it to us at 
spdstudentoutreach@gmail.com and we'll define it in a future post.
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