Dummy Copy

A graphic designer and her editor have a much bigger problem than their disagreement over the function of dummy copy.


Published in Argestes (Collen Tree Press, Fall-Winter 2008).





This is dummy copy. This is for position only. That means you’re not supposed to read this. Its purpose is just to give an indication of how the copy will look in the final document. The actual copy may look quite different. The line breaks probably won’t occur in the same places. The length of the paragraphs will vary. The mix of upper and lowercase letters will be different. There may or may not be ampersands, ellipses, or smart quotes like the ones that may or may not be here. In fact, very little will be the same other than the general sense of textiness. No, there’s no such word as textiness. I made it up. (At least I don’t think there’s any such word.) But that shouldn’t matter, because this is just dummy copy.


This is dummy copy. This is for position only. You’re not supposed to read this. And you’re certainly not supposed to edit it. Why would anyone bother editing dummy copy? Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what you keep on doing, isn’t it? Correcting the spelling, the grammar, the punctuation. Even offering alternate ways of saying what isn’t supposed to matter. You’re supposed to be concentrating on the design. You can be as specific as you want in your comments about the design. Do you like the overall concept? Do you like the colors? Do you like the illustrations or other graphic elements? The use of photography? The specific photos that have been selected? The way the pictures are cropped? 


This is dummy copy. This is for position only. When it comes to the copy, we only care about your response to the overall look and placement of the copy blocks. Of course you’re free to evaluate the headlines—that’s another story entirely. In particular, the choice of type font and type size. But the copy blocks should be treated simply as graphic elements at this point. In the next round, we’ll incorporate the actual text—assuming it’s final or close to final. Then you can go to town and edit the copy as much as you like. Just go for it—be merciless in that special way of yours! I don’t write the copy, so you won’t be hurting my feelings. But when you edit the dummy copy, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. No, worse than that, it’s insulting. Yes, insulting! To me, the graphic designer. It means you don’t take my work seriously. It means you’re not comfortable commenting on the design, even though I know you have definite opinions about it. You always do. But you’re more comfortable commenting on text, aren’t you? So you spend all your time editing the dummy copy and barely get around to the design. Until maybe in the next round, or the round after that, when we’re running late and all of a sudden you speak up and confess that you never really liked the design in the first place. So we go back to the drawing board—literally in this case—and waste everyone’s time and money. And then you blame me for being late with the project.


This is dummy copy. It’s for position only. Maybe you like wasting people’s time. I wonder what our employer would think if he (that’s right, “he,” for lord knows this reactionary institution would never deign to put a woman in charge) found out that you were wasting his time and money editing dummy copy. Maybe you think you’re being cute when you do this. Well, all right, I already told you I thought you were cute that time that we…well, you know. You said you thought I was cute, too, but I took it as an act of male condescension. You probably say that at one time or another to every woman who works here. You probably think it’ll smooth things over when they discover your flaws. Like this annoying habit of editing the dummy copy. 


This is dummy copy. It’s for position only. What’s it going to take to get you to stop it? Last time I tried using Latin copy blocks. The kind that many graphic designers use. (Funny to think that people refer to dummy copy as “Greek” even though it’s usually in Latin.) I thought the use of Latin made it obvious that you weren’t supposed to pay any attention to the content. And what did you do? You corrected the Latin, you pompous asshole! As if I knew Latin. As if I had any idea what the dummy Latin really meant. For that matter, how do I even know that your edits were correct? You might have been faking it. Just like you’ve faked so many things ever since we first went out.


This is dummy copy. It’s for position only. Do you miss me? Do you miss what we had? Those special things I did for you? The way I made you feel? The touch of my skin and the way I touched you back like no other woman had ever done, or so you said? Or was that just a line? I don’t think so. Bodies don’t lie. Your body told me things even you never suspected about yourself. I brought you to new heights and depths. You were slave to my ministrations, my indulgences. A little boy in my arms begging for more. And now where is my little boy? Playing his games with my copy blocks. Is that it? Trying to get my attention in this devious way because you’re too shy to tell me what you feel?