Editing pages to avoid “widow” and “orphan” lines

Editing a document for clear communication focuses on both the text and the layout of the text. What to look for in the page layout depends on the type and length of document.

For long, text-rich documents, be aware of “widows” and “orphans” which are lines of text separated by a page break from the rest of the paragraph they are in, making the text harder to read. A “widow” is a paragraph-ending line that appears at the top of the next page, at the end (death) of the paragraph. An “orphan” is a paragraph-opening line that appears at the bottom of a page, at the beginning (birth) of the paragraph.

“Widow” lines can be more distracting to readers than “orphans”, but both should be avoided. Turn on the “Widow/Orphan control” feature in Word under Format – Paragraph – Line and Page Breaks.

Other tips

  • split a long paragraph into two paragraphs if possible
  • rewrite the paragraph slightly to remove a “widow” line
  • insert a page break before an “orphan” line.

Look out for headings orphaned at the bottom of a page or with only a line or two of text under them. To make headings stand out, push them to the top of the next page. In formatting the style for headings, turn on the “Keep with next” feature in Word under Format – Paragraph – Line and Page Breaks.

One thought on “Editing pages to avoid “widow” and “orphan” lines

  1. Enthusiastic english student

    Absolutely fascinating.Now I know how to avoid ‘widows” and “orphans”I always use to have that problem, but not any more thanks to ‘write with Rhonda”

    Reply

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