Handling "Widows" And "Orphans"

Q. When I prepare a text presentation for clients, I want it to look professional. I don’t like the way a document looks when the last line of a paragraph is the first line on a page and, worse, doesn’t fill the width of the page. I also don’t like getting a really short line at the bottom of the page. I can fix these problems by tinkering with the text, but it’s a slow process. Is there a better way?

A. There is a very simple, automatic way to fix the problems. But, first, let’s agree on some terminology. What you’re talking about, in typographic terms, are “widows” and “orphans,” which are related (no pun intended). A “widow” is the last line of a paragraph left by itself at the top of a page, and an “orphan” is the first line of a paragraph left by itself at the bottom of a page.

Word has a way to control both of them so you don’t have to go through the entire text and tinker with the lines.

Here’s what you do: Highlight the paragraph for which you want widows and orphans eliminated and either right click on the mouse button or click on Format in the toolbar (see the screen shot below). Then select Paragraph. Click on the Line and Page Breaks tab, then check the Widow/Orphan control box and click OK. That’s all there is to it.

Word automatically eliminates all widows and orphans, making the text look neater and more professional.


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