Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Proofreading Tips: Lorem Ipsum and the Quick Brown Fox

Catriona Tippin

All about filler text 


Here’s a facility you may not know you have at your fingertips – placeholder or filler text. If you’re trying out a font or drafting a page layout you could find you need a sample of random text. Most word processing programs offer the option to type =lorem() and then press enter and have some garbled Latin appear. 


You can include parameters in the brackets as (p,l) with p as the number of paragraphs you want, and l as the number of lines in each of the paragraphs. Voila! As many paragraphs as you need with varying word and sentence length and a mix of letters. The ‘Latin’ concerned is a scrambled excerpt from Cicero’s 1st century BC text ‘About the Purposes of Good and Evil.’ Its use as filler text expanded in the 1960s, it was apparently chosen at random and it was popularised by ‘Letraset’. 

In that pre-digital age graphic designers used Letraset transfer sheets. Anyone old enough will recall how revolutionary Letraset was: with hundreds of fonts and graphic images on sticky sheets, and with careful positioning and burnishing, we could be instantly creative. ‘Instantly’ by the standards of the time, of course. Memories of that era still make me appreciate everything possible now. Today we change fonts on a whim, add, amend, move and remove images, etc – so useful. 

Letraset created transfer sheets using ‘lorem ipsum’ as filler text, and it became recognised as usefully meaningless. Using anything which makes sense can be distracting when the aim is to indicate ‘this is where the text goes’. Occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse of filler text (and it’s usually lorem ipsum) when a website has been freshly constructed but not finally polished. It can slip into print too, when used for placeholding but missed on the final proofread. 

The internet being the playground that it is, there are alternatives available. These include hipster ipsum (achingly hip) cupcake ipsum (calorific but garbled) and zombie ipsum (braiiins etc). They have the disadvantage of unavoidably encouraging reading, though. Filler text needs to be just that, filling but unintriguing. This is the disadvantage of the word processing programme default offering of random text when you type =rand() and then press enter. It’s a chunk of manualspeak, but a bit too readable. Older word processing versions offered the famous sentence:


The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. 

This is a ‘pangram’ – it includes every letter in the alphabet used at least once so it’s useful for seeing how a font looks. You can still find it when you type =rand.old() and then press enter. Both these ‘rand’ commands can have quantities of paragraphs and lines (p,l) included in the equation. Did you know there’s an even shorter sentence with every letter in the alphabet?: 

Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs. 

Good, eh? So there you go, an assortment of commands for conjuring up placeholder text. As well as helping in the design of a page layout, you never know, hitting enter and seeing all that text pop up might shift writer’s block. Or save you typing ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ over and over and over again... 

Note on the thumbnail: this quick brown fox appears over the door of The Fox, a popular pub in Holgate, York, and dates from 1878.

Catriona Tippin aka @ProofReadingTip will be back next month with more proofreading tips. 

To see previous tips, click on this proofreading link.



Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006 and helps organise venues for SCBWI North East. Details of her writing and illustrating here. She proofreads study guides, house magazines and publicity material for two national educational charities, in addition to working on a variety of proofreads and copyedits for the growing self-published world. Her monthly column is intended to give you food for thought, remembering “Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling or typographical error” (McKean’s Law, named after its inventor Erin McKean, editor of the Oxford American Dictionary). 

5 comments:

  1. Thank Catriona! Had fun just know trying out 'Pack my box..." on Myfonts.com I often like to anchor my illustrations or picture book projects with a font I like..or even make using Youfonts.com. Useful!

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    Replies
    1. 'Pack my box...' is a good oath or expression of surprise, isn't it? "Well, pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs!" Example of imperative mood too.

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  2. Really interesting, Catriona. I'm sure there's something in the fact that filler text unravelled is all about the purposes of good and evil...
    Feels like something to ponder.

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  3. The gist of the 'latin' includes a garbled bit about toil and pain sometimes being worth it for the end result! Wise words. Especially for writers. Cicero is also credited with the quote "Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book."

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  4. You did really good work. I really appreciate your new and different post. Please guys keep it up and share with us some unique post in the future dissertation proofreading service

    ReplyDelete

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