Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

A buddy of mine at my dad’s office, John Hudson, stopped by my cubicle yesterday and asked how the redesign of their website was going. Pleased to show off my work, I began to give him a brief tour of the site’s improvements.

During the tour, we came across an unfinished page that was still waiting for copy. For pages that still require copy, I often put in some dummy text, which has no meaning, but looks very similar to real text. The dummy text that I have been using is a few paragraphs of Latin that I found on the Internet several years ago. Here is the first paragraph, but if you want to see the full version that I often use, click here:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetaur adipisicing 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.

Well since John studied Latin for four years, our afternoon diversion soon began. I was curious to know the translation of the dummy text that I’ve been using for years and John was interested in testing his memory of Latin.

Needless to say, if it wasn’t for the Internet, we’d still be puzzled. But thanks to a few quick searches, we found some very interesting answers.

A quick and simplified answer is that Lorem Ipsum refers to text that the DTP (Desktop Publishing) industry uses as replacement text when the real text is not available.

For example, when designing a brochure, book, or website, a designer will insert Lorem ipsum text if the real text is not available. The Lorem ipsum text looks real enough that the brochure or book looks complete. The book or brochure can then be shown to the client for approval. The important factor when using Lorem ipsum text is that the text looks realistic otherwise the brochure or book will not look very good.

Lorem ipsum is a slightly jumbled Latin passage from Cicero’s de Finibus 1.10.32, which begins ‘Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit…’ De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, written in 45 BC, is a treatise on the theory of ethics very popular in the Renaissance.

What’s remarkable is that this text has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since some printer in the 1500s took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book; it has survived not only four centuries of letter-by-letter resetting but even the leap into electronic typesetting, essentially unchanged except for an occasional ‘ing’ or ‘y’ thrown in.

According to one website, the transformation of Lorem Ipsum text into a digital format can probably be credited to Aldus with their DTP software Pagemaker (now an Adobe product) which had Lorem Ipsum text included inside the software. In fact, the Lorem Ipsum text even appears in Microsoft Word 2002’s help files, apparently by mistake. Microsoft has a Knowledge Base Article in its support section explaining its occurrence:

The phrase “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet …” appears in Microsoft Word 2002 online Help. It appears in the Help topic “About tracked changes and comments”. This phrase has the appearance of an intelligent Latin idiom. Actually, it is nonsense.

More Information
Although the phrase is nonsense, it does have a long history. The phrase has been used for several centuries by typographers to show the most distinctive features of their fonts. It is used because the letters involved and the letter spacing in those combinations reveal, at their best, the weight, design, and other important features of the typeface.

A 1994 issue of “Before & After” magazine traces “Lorem ipsum …” to a jumbled Latin version of a passage from de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, a treatise on the theory of ethics written by Cicero in 45 B.C. The passage “Lorem ipsum …” is taken from text that reads, “Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit …,” which translates as, “There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain….”

During the 1500s, a printer adapted Cicero’s text to develop a page of type samples. Since then, the Latin-like text has been the printing industry’s standard for fake, or dummy, text. Before electronic publishing, graphic designers had to mock up layouts by drawing in squiggled lines to indicate text. The advent of self-adhesive sheets preprinted with “Lorem ipsum” gave a more realistic way to indicate where text would go on a page.

Obviously, I found all of this to be quite fascinating. Little did I know that by using Lorem ipsum as my dummy text when I develop websites, I have been maintaining a typesetting tradition that dates back to the 1500s.

1 Comment

  1. I to use Lorem ipsum text as a filler. I first found out about it at a job in Tennessee. I thought it was great, what a way to fill in the white space while I’m building an application.

    Well, last year at my previous job I used it again to add some filler to a new web app. And to my amazement, when I published the site for testing I was shocked to see so many calls coming to the helpdesk about some broken pages. Come to find out people were seeing the text and really thought my app was busted. Ah how I love end-users.

    Your in ZAX, Craig Beta Eta Zeta – BH 1054

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