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he usefulness of nonsensical content

Dummy text is also used to demonstrate the appearance of different typefaces and layouts, and in general the content of dummy text is nonsensical. Due to its widespread use as filler text for layouts, non-readability is of great importance: human perception is tuned to recognize certain patterns and repetitions in texts. If the distribution of letters and ‘words’ is random, the reader will not be distracted from making a neutral judgement on the visual impact and readability of the typefaces (typography), or the distribution of text on the page (layout or type area). For this reason, dummy text usually consists of a more or less random series of words or syllables. This prevents repetitive patterns from impairing the overall visual impression and facilitates the comparison of different typefaces. Furthermore, it is advantageous when the dummy text is relatively realistic so that the layout impression of the final publication is not compromised.

Incomprehensibility or readability? That is the question

The most well-known dummy text is the ‘Lorem Ipsum’, which is said to have originated in the 16th century. Lorem Ipsum is composed in a pseudo-Latin language which more or less corresponds to ‘proper’ Latin. It contains a series of real Latin words. This ancient dummy text is also incomprehensible, but it imitates the rhythm of most European languages in Latin script. The advantage of its Latin origin and the relative meaninglessness of Lorum Ipsum is that the text does not attract attention to itself or distract the viewer’s attention from the layout.

Origin and meaning of the Lorem Ipsum text

According to most sources, Lorum Ipsum can be traced back to a text composed by Cicero in 45 BC. Allegedly, a Latin scholar established the origin of the text by compiling all the instances of the unusual word ‘consectetur’ he could find and eventually recognized it as a passage from ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’ (On the extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, a book that was very popular in the Middle Ages: “Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit, amet, consectetur, adipisci velit… ” (Approximately: “Nor is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain…”). A typical Lorem Ipsum text goes like this: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisici elit, sed eiusmod tempor incidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim …”.

It seems that only fragments of the original text remain in the Lorem Ipsum texts used today. One may speculate that over the course of time certain letters were added or deleted at various positions within the text. This might also explain why one can now find slightly different versions. Due to the age of the Lorem Ipsum text there are no copyright issues to contend with.

In the 1960s, the text suddenly became known beyond the professional circle of typesetters and layout designers when it was used for Letraset sheets (adhesive letters on transparent film, popular until the 1980s) Versions of the text were subsequently included in DTP programmes such as PageMaker etc.

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