O is for Orphans and Widows

So you’ve typed out your body text, added headlines, chosen your fonts and sizes… Why doesn’t it look right?

It may be that there are widows and orphans hanging about.

Widows and orphans are a word or short line of text that are left dangling alone at the top or bottom of a page or the end of a paragraph. For example, you turn a page in a book and the last word from the paragraph before is at the top of the page all by itself. That’s a widow. Or, another example, at the bottom of a page, a single line from the next paragraph is by itself. That’s an orphan.

There is another instance that can be considered a widow or an orphan, but no one seems to agree on which term to use. This instance is when a single word is bumped to the next line at the end of a paragraph, leaving it dangling all by itself.

These widows and orphans make blocks of text look awkward and can reduce readability.

To fix these issues, you can adjust the tracking of each paragraph until either the dangling word or line of text are bumped back up into the line above, or more words are added to the lines below.

For more about tracking, click here!

About the author

Leetah Begallie

Leetah is a writer and graphic designer who lives on Vancouver Island in Beautiful British Columbia. She enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband (Matt), her dog (Isla), and her three pet rats (Avi, Lily, and River).

She writes mostly fantasy but enjoys tying in other genres to her stories.

2 Comments

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  • whenever I work on a project, my boss often insist on removing those orphans and widows and hyphen words but that means changing the whole look of the page which I find frustrating because I have to re-adjust everthing but I guess that is the bad side of design, there’s just no way to making everything perfect.

    have a lovely day.

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