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I'm the developer of an application where text plays a major role in the user interface. Users can adjust the style of the text in a preference screen. I have added an example text to the preference screen to make it easier for users to see what changing a preference actually results in.

Is it bad to show users a "Lorem Ipsum" style example text in the text-preferences screen?

Do users understand what Lorem Ipsum is? Or will it confuse users?

Using "Lorem Ipsum" seems like a good solution because I don't need to create localized (translated) dummy text for each language the app is available in. Or should I just show real sections of the text the users will possibly view? The last has the disadvantage that loading these texts or parts of it are pretty heavy operations.

Edit:

In my specific case I need to show at least a title with a paragraph of two or more lines. Because not only font size and style can be adjusted but also line spacing and other more advanced and less trivial options.

The people using the application can literally be any one.

The mobile application is at the moment only targeting Latin style languages but we are working on Arabic too.

  • 12
    "Using "Lorem Ipsum" seems like a good solution because I don't need to create localized (translated) dummy text for each language" - this is a bit of a misconception. Lorem Ipsum is a good approximation of the looks of English text (and possibly various other languages). However, some languages such as German have a totally different distribution of capitals in their texts (in German, all nouns are always capitalized), hence Lorem Ipsum does not necessarily look very similar to actual German text. – O. R. Mapper Feb 13 '15 at 11:59
  • @O.R.Mapper I have to agree with that one! – Rolf ツ Feb 13 '15 at 12:00
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    What about a famous piece of poetry. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" – Nathan MacInnes Feb 13 '15 at 15:06
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    @NathanMacInnes: When using poetry, linebreaks must of course be skipped (and not highlighted in any other way, such as with slashes), as otherwise the text would look quite dissimilar from anything that is not poetry. – O. R. Mapper Feb 15 '15 at 11:35
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    Lorem Ipsum isn't translatable, is it? I thought it was just words that looked latiny-y? – Jon Story Feb 17 '15 at 11:15

11 Answers 11

60

Designers

When it's your working version and you just want some text in there to visualise the overall page balance, and you'll only share it with other designers, then using Lorum ipsum should probably be fine.

End users

For end users, I would suggest using some other real example text. Yes, you'd have to localise this, but it's quite easy to simply take an excerpt from a well know public domain book in that language - see the Gutenberg Project for examples. It also presents an opportunity to add personality to your product depending on what public domain book you use.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long ...

says something quite different to

Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were - Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.

Developers

Often developers are not used to the idea of Lorem ipsum, and may be confused by this. So I would either use the same content as I would for end users above, or if time were short, I would simply include some warning text before Lorem ipsum. Something like:

The following text is here for typesetting and design purposes. Please don't actually use any of it in production code. Improved text will be provided later.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, quis nostro his cu, est agam vero temporibus ne. Mei te oblique corpora deleniti. An quis oratio tacimates est. Vero omnes iudico eum ne, usu omnes ponderum torquatos ne. Sed suas ullamcorper at, usu labitur evertitur in.


So while you can likely get away with Lorem ipsum, I think it's worth the effort to simply use some interesting text instead.

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    "បាទ អាន ស្គ្រីប ដែលមិន មានដើមកំណើត មិនបាន ផ្តល់ឱ្យខ្ញុំ អារម្មណ៍ ហ្វុនអក្សរ នេះ។" when translated from Khmer to English yields (very roughly) "Yes, reading non-native scripts does not give me a sense of the typography." It also screws with line height as the example shows because there is extra space for diacritics. – msw Feb 12 '15 at 17:12
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    @Majo0od - he's not using it as a placeholder in a design document that he's giving to a client, he's using it as a permanent part of the application as sample text to show users a preview of their font choice. – Johnny Feb 12 '15 at 17:36
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    If you need only a sentence, not a paragraph or more, consider using a pangram ("The quick brown fox ..." or similar) -- more people will recognize that as text shown for its appearance and not its meaning, I think. – zwol Feb 13 '15 at 3:39
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    "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long ..." -> in my case, it was 23 years ago. – Ismael Miguel Feb 13 '15 at 11:33
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    I once had a website client get really mad at some Lorem Ipsum filler text because she thought it was "Satanic". Took too long to explain what it was. 4/10 would not recommend Lorem Ipsum. – Howdy_McGee Feb 13 '15 at 23:03
30

Font and layout is exactly what Lorem Ipsum is designed to do. It has been used by type setters and printers since the 1500s. The idea is that by not having real words the users focus on the layout.

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using 'Content here, content here', making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for 'lorem ipsum' will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like). It is not just random - it is designed to have many of the combination.

One benefit to some real words is if hyphenation is based on real hyphenation.

This is what I do:

The following is intentionally not real words. The purpose is font and layout only.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, quis nostro his cu, est agam vero temporibus ne. Mei te oblique corpora deleniti. An quis oratio tacimates est. Vero omnes iudico eum ne, usu omnes ponderum torquatos ne. Sed suas ullamcorper at, usu labitur evertitur in.

An minim singulis eam, mel noster periculis urbanitas ut, mei id idque aliquando. At est summo inimicus. Velit oratio consequat ad vix. Ea illum lucilius mea, civibus petentium in pro. Cum cu abhorreant expetendis intellegebat, ex dicam sapientem ocurreret per, sit aperiri suavitate sadipscing at. Denique maluisset his ex, ferri fuisset an vix, vis denique molestie dignissim at.

Cu ius dicam facilisi argumentum, ei ponderum intellegebat definitionem vel. Essent imperdiet necessitatibus eu usu, nihil mentitum principes ei vel. Has dicunt minimum recteque id. Per ea nominati explicari, ne errem singulis inimicus mel, cu sed nobis ornatus. In sit cibo brute feugiat, vim an pertinacia delicatissimi. Eam detraxit theophrastus eu.

Eu usu adolescens necessitatibus. Lorem verear quo ea, nostro aliquip eos in. Harum volutpat te mei, eu usu erant luptatum dissentiunt. Eu sea verear scriptorem comprehensam.

Duo nibh eirmod omittam et, cum omnis deserunt deterruisset eu, est ne mundi fuisset. In nihil aliquip blandit nam, ad platonem hendrerit vim, solet qualisque ius ad. Eum blandit consetetur definiebas ad, idque incorrupte concludaturque est no, sea ei quem mollis imperdiet. Congue impetus convenire eum ne, pri malis facete platonem te. At vel reque signiferumque.

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    +1 for the first part: "The idea is that by not having real words the users focus on the layout." This is true, but many users aren't used to Lorem Ipsum on the other side. – Rolf ツ Feb 12 '15 at 18:39
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    I'm idly wondering what the equivalent to "lorem ipsum" is for non-Roman texts? It would seem rather Latin1-centric to claim it is a universal font specimen text... – RBerteig Feb 12 '15 at 21:55
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    @RBerteig But it is not claiming to be a universal font specimen. I am not aware of specimens for other character sets. That is interesting. I wonder if it goes back to the first printed book (the bible)? From a UX perspective fonts are interesting. They have evolved but have survived. – paparazzo Feb 12 '15 at 22:09
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    @Blam According to lipsum.com the text itself dates from ca. 45 BC, but was scrambled as a type specimen by a printer ca. 1500 AD. The original text was in Latin, the scrambled text has spans of comprehensible Latin but overall is nonsense. The assumption that it is "universal" is somewhat endemic, and rarely stated. It is universal in the same sense that making Times Roman a default font is. Everything is fine until you need to quote some Greek or Russian text in their original form. Then add right-to-left languages, and... – RBerteig Feb 12 '15 at 22:22
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    @Blam The oldest extant printed book is not the Bible. The Diamond Sutra (Tang dynasty, China) predates the Gutenberg Bible by about 580 years. – JohnGB Feb 13 '15 at 13:30
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If the goal is to provide a short text sample for the style then use a pangram like "A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog". This will show how each letter is rendered.

  • +1 This could indeed be a very good option. Many people will recognize this approach. But unfortunately I need a multi line sample text, see my updated question ;) – Rolf ツ Feb 13 '15 at 10:09
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    @Rolfツ doesn't stop you from starting with the pangram and then either repeating or a lorem ipsum filler – ratchet freak Feb 13 '15 at 10:19
  • Therefore you have my +1 – Rolf ツ Feb 13 '15 at 10:21
  • Fonts contain more than lower case letters, and it may be useful to have a text sample show what other characters look like as well. An advantage of leading off with "The quick brown fox..." is that while its appearance is that of English text, it calls attention to the fact that its purpose is to show the appearance of different characters. – supercat Feb 13 '15 at 22:11
  • There are many, many pangrams out there. So this is a good answer. It's real words, but clearly silly real words which I think the average person would 'get' moreso that Lorem Ipsum (which does confuse a lot of people out of context) – DA01 Feb 16 '15 at 1:54
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Choose a text generator that suits your domain and use it instead. Lorem ain't good for layout/typography, it was never meant to (see other answers for why it's not, unless you are in a real printing business, Gutenberg&co-style). If you're after font/typography, use a pangram for the language you are after (hello localization!), like @ratchetfreak said in his answer.

I've cut generated texts for brevity. Your options include - but are NOT limited to:

Not Lorem Ipsum

Text corpus with some meaning, trying to resemble actual domain lingo. Note: not random. Bonus: every pro worth their salt will know it's a dummy text.

More than 50 domains, among them hairdressers, doctors, florists, you name it. Exemplary domains:

Quote for startup (for clarity, product is named Ooooh)

Here are just some of the magazine reviews we have had:

“Ooooh. That says it all really.” ★★★★ One of the Magazines

“What a product. Why didn’t someone think of it sooner?” ★★★★★ Another Magazine

“Get out there and buy it if you’re a customer and stock it if you’re a retailer – you’d be mad not to!” ★★★★★ Some other Magazine

Ipsum Sauf

Random text generator based on few texts that you choose: Pulp Fiction, Monty Python and Holy Grail plus couple others.

I fully agree with @DewiMorgan on using random text and professionalism (fits together like a fist and a nose). Why I'm adding this: it allows you to create your own "ipsum" from custom corpus that you provide (supports more than just English). You can use NotLorem with this for randomness if you wish.

http://ipsum.sauf.ca/#grail

Example:

Camelot!

King of the who?

Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem. 

Camelot!

What's wrong with her? She's beautiful. She's rich. She's got huge... tracts of land. 

Wicked, bad, naughty Zoot!

So, we French fellows outwit you a second time! 

None shall pass.

Sir Robin the-not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Lancelot, who had nearly fought the Dragon of Angnor, who had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol, and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill

Strange formatting of this quote is due to copy/pasting bullet points and my attempt to recreate list format using nested quotes. Feel free to edit.

Picksum ipsum

Movie based text generator stitching quotes from famous actors.

http://www.picksumipsum.co.uk/

IMO, good for randomness and to really make it clear text is irrelevant.

jimcarrey & michaelcaine

Yes, I used a machine gun. You are as precious to me as you were to your own mother and father. I swore to them that I would protect you, and I haven't. It's not the size mate, it's how you use it. Excuse me, I'd like to ASS you a few questions. My lord! You're a tripod. Hey, maybe I will give you a call sometime. Your number still 911? You wouldn't hit a man with no trousers on, would you? Your were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off. I just heard about evans new position,good luck to you evan backstabber, bastard, i mean baxter. It's because i'm green isn't it! Brain freeze. Jasper: Your baby is the miracle the whole world has been waiting for.

Choose your ipsum

Last but not least, for greater wealth of choices: a site that collects "ipsum" generators: http://idsgn.dropmark.com/107

Again, this is not all that you have as alternative to Lorem Ipsum.

7

If the text preferences are important, you should not use example text in a different (which includes fictive) language.

Languages have different characteristics, and what looks fine for a paragraph of "Lorem ipsum …" is not necessarily ideal for text in other languages.

So you should show text in the language the user is setting the preferences for.

You could use filler text in that language, or a real example of content on your site. But I think the following is worth considering, too:

Use the help/instruction text for the text preferences itself (with better wording):

Text preferences

Use the form below to change the text line-height, …, and font-size of this paragraph.
If you are happy with how it looks, save your settings. They will be used for every text on our site.

5

Here is another option that might work depending on the situation. It has the added benefit of not needing to be localized into different languages...

fb mobile loading card

credit: Facebook placeholder loading card

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    Nice option, but how would this allow to show different text colors? Bold and italic's or extra info markers between specific parts of text (The text style and preferences I'm talking about are quite complicated). But thanks for the suggestion! – Rolf ツ Feb 13 '15 at 21:37
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    Yeah I'm not sure there is a universal word that would work in any language other than this character maybe... ツ – DaveAlger Feb 13 '15 at 21:44
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    @A.L it's called 'greeking': en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greeking but is really more about layout mock-ups than sample text meant to help a person pick a font size. – DA01 Feb 16 '15 at 1:55
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    This will still need to be localized to RTL languages. – Fengyang Wang Feb 16 '15 at 3:42
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    @A.L here is more information on Greeking with examples -- ux.stackexchange.com/a/74192/58111 – DaveAlger Mar 11 '15 at 16:27
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Why waste the opportunity to promote your clients, company, or products?

I realize you're trying to give them something without meaning so they won't focus on the words, but if you give them the same positive words about your product every time, they will read the message once then quickly overlook it from that point forward.

"You are a balanced and wise person for choosing The Frobnicator to make your life complete. The Frobnicator will purposefully position your paradigm from platitudes to platinum, enhancing the quality of your shakra while maximizing the density of your aura."

With careful word choices, you could incorporate all the characters of the alphabet, enabling your users to test their settings thoroughly. Talk to your marketing department, and have them provide a couple of test paragraphs for the purpose.

3

While »Lorem Ipsum« is great for the early design stage it is nearly always worth to change the blind text to localized dummy text (Yes, this is additional work which seems not necessarily needed. But it shows you're paying attention to details.)

The trick is to use text which looks like a normal reading text – this is very important! While most people nowadays know the »Lorem ipsum« it still will give them a slight discomfort. This is due to the fact that even when you are not »reading« deliberately your brain will still recognize the forms of the letters and words. This is a crucial thing! »Lorem impsum« doesn't work so well, because the brain does not know the forms and shapes.

By knowing this fact another thing comes along: the urge to read present text. Thanks to the knowledge of these circumstances we need a blind text which is:

  • localized
  • not actual readable (in matter of purpose) so no one is tempted to read it

I for myself like to use a text from a german typographic book. As already mentioned »Lorem ipsum« doesn't suite the character of the german language. It can has very long words, every noun must start with a majuscule, it has special characters ... etc. It all builds these special forms and shapes.

The rule of thumbs is (from a typographer):

Everywhere where the relation from content to letterform is important there must be real text.

For instance I used the beginning of a german fairy tale.

Es war einmal eine Königin, die hatte ein Töchterchen, das war noch klein und mußte noch auf dem Arm getragen werden. Zu einer Zeit war das Kind unartig, und die Mutter mochte sagen, was sie wollte, es hielt nicht Ruhe. Da ward sie ungeduldig, und weil die Raben so um das Schloss herumflogen, öffnete sie das Fenster und sagte: "Ich wollte, du wärst eine Rabe und flögst fort, so hätt ich Ruhe."

2

In my experience, Lorem Ipsum is beloved of typography fans, and unknown to the common man - aka, the client. So, if you want to avoid a discussion with the client about why the text is garbled, and why you selected this placeholder text rather than some text saying "this is placeholder text" and then properly exercising as many code points and ligatures as possible, then you probably need to regionalize your placeholder text.

Using lorem ipsum as a lazy excuse not to regionalize is terrible practice.

Exactly what percentage of your target languages does lorem ipsum provide a convincing layout summary for? An 80-em width proportionally-spaced at 8 point might be fine for Latin, but will it work as comfortably for Japanese? Would your Chinese users prefer vertical layout? So, you will need to regionalize anyway, and providing Lorem Ipsum just conceals that need from developers.

Now imagine you are a regionalizer. You discover a bunch of lorem ipsum that you are required to regionalize. How much time will be wasted by this lazy designer who thinks himself so clever to use generic pseudo-latin gibberish? Will you, as a translator, arduously translate it?

Will your clients then be more, or less impressed with the product, on reading as some apparently random text, this string:

Loves, pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain

Are you selling a product to masochists? If so, this text may be suitable. Otherwise, probably it is inappropriate, particularly if it will be sold in any of the regions of the world which still use or teach Latin.

If you don't know exactly what some foreign text says, then do not ever place it in your product:
lorem ipsum users would get Asian tattoos because they "look cool".

  • Some good stuff in here! – Rolf ツ Feb 13 '15 at 10:06
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    I would like to add that even for English (and in fact even for the Romance languages), Lorem Ipsum ist not representative typography-wise. Latin has a higher frequency of narrow glyphs like "l" or "i", which may lead people to misjudge the density of the page. – Jörg W Mittag Feb 14 '15 at 0:17
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    Just to clarify, Lorem ipsum is scrambled. Loves, pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain is part of the original text that was scrambled. – Bardi Harborow Feb 14 '15 at 1:31
  • I picked the phrase because (out of context from the original) it makes my final point really well. Historically, chunks of the original text were used in a more or less meaningless way. Nowadays, it's either generated by an automated script, or a conscientious LI user searches out the original source and uses it verbatim. Even if a scrambling script is used, the odds of an offensive phrase are reasonably high, especially after translation by your i18n team to a large number of other languages. – Dewi Morgan Feb 14 '15 at 1:43
  • [More correctly: yeah, I handwaved that and hoped nobody would notice. SHHH!] – Dewi Morgan Feb 14 '15 at 1:44
2

You are using this on a mobile application where the screen is small. Why not try the shorter phrase?

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

This has the advantage of showing all letters on screen in a concise manner. I spent a few seconds on a search engine and found http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/ucs/examples/quickbrown.txt. So as you can see it is very easy to find equivalent sentences in other languages.

If you do not like the above idea just show the user's local alphabet sequentially. For English start at A and end at Z, do likewise for lowercase letters. For other languages show all possible accents after the non accented letters. I personally believe this is the best option as it is the least confusing to those who are not familiar with typesetting or font rendering and thus have never encountered those phrases that we are already familiar with.

  • Nice idea! Unfortunately the text preferences also contain styling options for complete paragraphs and titles. But this may be useful for someone else! – Rolf ツ Feb 14 '15 at 21:45
2

I think there's a lot of confusion as to what Lorem Ipsum is and what it's really designed for in these answers.

In general, Lorem Ipsum is a way to fully flesh out a text-heavy page layout when the real content isn't ready yet. Most graphic designers and ad agency folks will understand this, but few others do (nor should that, as it's really just a bit of industry trivia).

For most people it's an odd bit of weird text that feels like a mistake rather than something of use.

So, I'd suggest strongly that in this particular context you should not use lorem ipsum.

I like some of the answers that suggest Pangrams. Pangrams tend to be purposefully sily, so there's no mistaking it as important content. I'd suggest that compbined with an actual statement as to what the text is for. Example:

This paragraph of text is here as an example to show you how changing the font size setting will work for your needs. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. How quickly daft jumping zebras vex. Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.

Note that pangrams are really designed to show off specific letters, rather than emulate general common language, but in this particular context, where a user is simply trying to get a comfortable font size, I think this works well.

  • A problem with using lorem ipsum for layouting purposes is that Latin has different letter frequencies than, say, English. In particular, it has a higher frequency of l and i, both of which are very narrow glyphs, which make Latin look more dense than English. Thus, layouting a page with lorem ipsum, the page may look "too black", so you increase letter spacing (for example), but then when you put actual English content on it, it suddenly looks too light. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 24 '16 at 17:49
  • @JörgWMittag that could be true, but note that Lorem Ipsum isn't real latin. – DA01 Sep 24 '16 at 23:20
  • Well, it's a scrambled version of a Cicero text, so, while it doesn't make sense, the letter frequencies should be largely intact. – Jörg W Mittag Sep 24 '16 at 23:28

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