Getting the most out of Lorem Ipsum

It goes without saying that the best copy for any project is the copy that’s ultimately going to be a part of the design. However, since that’s often difficult to come by especially during the wireframing stage of a site, designers frequently use lorem ipsum (also called placeholder, dummy text, even sometimes [incorrectly] Greeking) to fill an area with a missing headline, some explanatory copy, or just a bunch of body.

While it might not seem like it, dummy text is a hugely helpful tool that sometimes doesn’t get used to its potential.

Get real copy

In a way, this goes without saying. If you have access to real copy, use it. This doesn’t just mean brand new copy, this also includes currently existing if you’re doing a redesign. Use old website content, blog posts, articles, and case studies when you can.

Use something vaguely realistic

Designers use a phrase like “THIS IS A MESSAGE ABOUT OUR BUSINESS” or something similar. Dummy copy should be functional while also looking natural. So rather than use a potentially distracting phrase like this, come up with something contextual.

For instance, if you have a large headline over a hero image, think about the message you want to convey and try to write a quick snippet that helps establish that tone (so instead of “THIS IS A MESSAGE ABOUT OUR BUSINESS” you might use something like “INVOICING JUST GOT SIMPLER.”) They don’t need to be perfect. This will make it easier for the client to understand the purpose of the copy in the wireframing and design stages as well as provide a guide for the copywriter in terms of length and tone. Generally, the smaller the amount of copy, the closer to “real” it should be.

Start real, end dummy

Sometimes, you’ve got a larger chunk of copy that you need to be filled. This is where a lot of designers just go right to lorem ipsum. However, consider using the first couple of lines to write up something that you could imagine being there, even if it’s not totally accurate. Or at least try to explain what this section is before diving into the dummy copy.

Change it Up

Many times, one is faced with coming up with a number of repeating sections of fake content: blog posts, usernames, headlines, etc. Using the same selection of copy for adjacent elements is jarring and unnatural. In these instances, you’ll want to changes it up in two ways.

First, using different dummy content for each article is a much more natural experience for the user. Seeing the same headline over and over makes the design look flat and it stick out (remember the rule.) Invision’s Craft plug-in for Sketch does a great job of allowing really easy insertion of dummy names, cities, and headlines for multiple items. Not into Sketch? Just do a little copy/pasting from Fake Name Generator.

Secondly, you’ll want to vary the length of items such a names and headlines to make sure that longer and shorter versions can be accommodated together within a design. And when it comes to names, makes sure at some point you drop in someone with an abnormally long name (Alistair Greyson Von Thamesman-Hollingsworth)

Sometimes dummy can be better

There are instances where coming up with “close, but not quite” might actually harm the design process. Some clients are very sensitive to copy and will fixate or call out on something that they feel doesn’t work even if it IS just placeholder. In these instances, it’s best to reassure them that this is just dummy copy. However, in future revisions, it might be worth using plain lorem ipsum in an effort to keep the client focus on the design instead of the content.

Can the kitsch

Not a week goes by that I don’t come across some new novelty lipsum like, and I’m not joking here, Cupcake Ipsum and DJ Khaled Ipsum. While one might think, “hey it’s just dummy copy, no one will notice,” I’m here to tell you that yes, they will notice, and that’s all they will notice. And they will wonder why your copy keeps mentioning cheesecake. Again, the point of dummy text is to just look like text. It should just be there, not making a scene, doing its job. It’s the eggshell white of design.

They will notice, and that’s all they will notice. And they will wonder why your copy keeps mentioning cheesecake.

Just stick with your standard lorem ipsum. It’s been in use for decades for a reason: it looks foreign enough to not call attention to itself, while also being composed of word lengths and patterns that also seem natural. Most of these “alternative” lipsums don’t have nearly the variety of words or word length to be of any real use.

Where to get your dummy copy

While all of this has been referencing lorem ipsum as the dummy copy, some of the best copy is already written for your project: existing sites, apps, documentation, and content. If you’re redesigning a blog for a company, grab their headlines. Take their pull quotes. Use their body and lists. This will go a long way toward giving the user a good idea of how this design will look with their own existing content.

Barring this, you’ll need some lorem ipsum. Okay, so since you can’t use Hipster Ipsum or Samuel L. Jackson Ipsum generators, where should you get your copy? Simple. Head to and in one click and can have the exact amount of copy you need organized by number of characters, words, sentences or paragraphs. Or, if you want something that resides natively, the OSX app LittleIpsum does the same sort of thing right from the task bar. Or, if you’re Sketch-inclined, grab a plug-in!