Be careful with your placeholder text

Using placeholder (or “dummy”) text when your final copy is not ready, or when you’re creating a template, can be a good way to get the design process moving and make sure you allow adequate room for the text destined to fill a space.

But there is potential for disaster when using placeholder text, as evidenced by this screenshot from an e-mail promotion I received today from Flight Centre.

oops.jpg

The printing industry has, for hundreds of years, had a standard set of dummy text, known as Lorem Ipsum. It’s a chunk of scrambled Latin text that is best to use when you need a placeholder. Why?

Well, first, if you are trying to determine whether you’ve got a good design, it’s much easier to tell what it will really look like when you insert your finished text if you are using varied letters and word lengths rather than repeated words.

But what’s most important is that when you do your final spell-check (you *do* do a final spell check, don’t you?) the made-up words that form the Lorem Ipsum text will be flagged if you’ve forgetten to replace them with your finished content — so you won’t send out an e-mail promotion like the one above. 

Here are the first two paragraphs of the standard Lorem Ipsum text:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse arcu sem, bibendum vel condimentum eget, posuere a tellus. Aenean non arcu lorem. Fusce ut dolor erat. Cras posuere, mi eu convallis facilisis, tellus turpis molestie lacus, vitae tempor magna felis a erat. Etiam sollicitudin aliquet dapibus. Cras euismod urna in purus semper condimentum. Pellentesque malesuada porttitor odio, ac mollis nisi consequat eget. In in nisl neque. Integer vel consectetur quam. Nunc quam libero, accumsan in placerat at, lacinia feugiat arcu. Aenean convallis lobortis justo, vel scelerisque nibh consectetur a. Maecenas eu gravida nisi. Praesent sed magna dui, sed cursus magna. Donec euismod, neque at dignissim cursus, arcu libero egestas ante, a egestas augue lorem eget arcu. Phasellus vel nibh non tellus porta fringilla eget quis urna. Morbi vitae est sem. Sed sodales tristique nisl, vel rhoncus orci placerat mollis. Curabitur posuere nibh ligula, sed iaculis massa.

Pellentesque libero tortor, laoreet ac vestibulum et, placerat vel nisi. Etiam ultrices faucibus gravida. Praesent porttitor interdum tempus. Morbi lacinia massa sed nunc iaculis in mattis ante consectetur. Phasellus eu felis massa. Maecenas ac dolor dui, sed dapibus sem. Fusce velit nulla, iaculis ut consectetur non, facilisis non quam. Praesent in orci dui. Vestibulum at adipiscing mi. Sed tortor lectus, porttitor et congue vel, eleifend nec mauris. Suspendisse potenti. Curabitur placerat porta vehicula. Nam non purus justo. Praesent hendrerit lacinia pulvinar. Nunc venenatis sapien et dolor adipiscing et tempus magna viverra. Integer porta pellentesque magna, vel feugiat odio aliquam sed. Cras facilisis, lectus vitae elementum iaculis, dui odio gravida elit, at auctor urna libero eget mi. Cras vel quam vitae velit iaculis aliquam. Aliquam non volutpat nulla. Nulla non ligula massa.  

If you need more, there’s a Lorem Ipsum generator online at www.lipsum.com.

Hard-copy vs. electronic editing

Here’s link to an interesting blog post from the folks at 37signals about hard-copy markup using copy editor’s marks vs. electronic editing using track changes in Word. The post and most of the comments lean towards hard-copy editing being superior. My experience is that electronic editing is far simpler, faster, and easier for authors to understand, especially when there are lots of changes (in which case a marked-up hard copy can become extremely unwieldy). I do recommend a hard-copy final proof if time allows, but for substantive and copy editing, my view is that track changes is the way to go.

What Went Wrong? The NYT corrects 7 errors in one published article

A surprising number of writing and editing mistakes combined to result in the New York Times publishing an article about Walter Cronkite that contained a whopping seven errors, including incorrect names and dates, among other problems.

When I was in journalism school, we were automatically docked 50% on any assignment that had a name spelled wrong or a date incorrect, since those things are such a huge deal. I once got a failing mark on a story because I’d incorrectly tacked an “e” onto an “Ann.” So for the times to slip up this many times in one piece about a public figure is surprising, to say the least.

Perhaps that’s why their Public Editor has analyzed the situation in an interesting article that you can read here. 

Here’s the short version of what happened:

Even a newspaper like The Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done. Five editors read the article at different times, but none subjected it to rigorous fact-checking, even after catching two other errors in it. And three editors combined to cause one of the errors themselves.

It’s an interesting study of the editorial process, and what can go wrong.

Ever wonder exactly what editors do?

Vanity Fair has taken a jab at Sarah Palin by setting its editorial staff to work on her resignation speech. The point of the excercise from VF’s perspective, of course, was to further hammer home a point that has been made many times already — the speech had some issues. I’m posting their work here because it provides an excellent picture of what editors do, and how much an editor (or three, in this case) can improve text. So whether you’re a Palin fan or not, if you’ve always wondered what editors do, take a peek at this link. How much could an editor improve your printed materials, scripts, or presentations?

Are you looking for a writer or a receptionist?

Note to Businesspeople: Hiring an in-house “writer/editor” who will also make bank deposits, do data entry, answer the phone, “design” your web site, make the coffee, clean the floors, book your travel, and pick up your dry cleaning will *not* result in very professional written materials or a very happy/long-term employee. Instead of hiring someone and tacking on unrelated tasks, why not contract out your writing/editing so you can only pay for the time you need but get a quality product?

A freelance travel & lifestyle writer/editor in Vancouver, B.C.