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Not to be confused with Masonic Widows and Orphans Home.
A widowed line: the last line of a paragraph, all alone on the other side of a page break.

At the end of the first paragraph, the word "lorem" is an orphan in the second sense: a very short final line that, because the rest of its line is white, creates an impression of two lines of whitespace between the paragraphs.

In typesetting, widows and orphans are words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph, which are left dangling at the top or bottom of a column, separated from the rest of the paragraph. There is some disagreement about the definitions of widow and orphan; what one source calls a widow another calls an orphan.[1][2] The Chicago Manual of Style uses these definitions:[2]

  • A paragraph-ending line that falls at the beginning of the following page or column, thus separated from the rest of the text.
  • A paragraph-opening line that appears by itself at the bottom of a page or column.
  • A word, part of a word, or very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans result in too much white space between paragraphs or at the bottom of a page.

Remembering the terms[edit]

A common mnemonic is "An orphan has no past; a widow has no future"[3] or "An orphan is left behind, whereas a widow must go on alone".

Another way to think is that orphaned lines appear at the "birth" (start) of paragraphs; widowed lines appear at the "death" (end) of paragraphs.

Alternatively, here's one more mnemonic device: "An orphan is alone from the beginning; a widow is alone at the end," or "An orphan starts alone, a widow ends alone."


Writing guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, generally suggest that a manuscript should have no widows and orphans even if the result of avoiding them is additional space at the bottom of a page or column.[4] However, in its 16th edition (2011) the Chicago Manual of Style suggests a new convention in which pages may end with the first line of a new paragraph.[5]

Some techniques for eliminating widows include:

  • Forcing a page break early, producing a shorter page;
  • Adjusting the leading, the space between lines of text (although such carding or feathering is usually frowned upon);
  • Adjusting the spacing between words to produce 'tighter' or 'looser' paragraphs;
  • Adjusting the hyphenation of words or characters within the paragraph;
  • Adjusting the page's margins;
  • Subtle scaling of the page, though too much non-uniform scaling can visibly distort the letters;
  • Rewriting a portion of the paragraph;
  • Reduce the tracking of the words;
  • Adding a pull quote to the text (more common for magazines); and
  • Adding a figure to the text, or resizing an existing figure.

An orphan is cured more easily, by inserting a blank line or forcing a page break to push the orphan line onto the next page to be with the rest of its paragraph. Such a cure may have to be undone if editing the text repositions the automatic page or column break.

Similarly, a single orphaned word at the end of a paragraph can be cured by forcing one or more words from the preceding line into the orphan's line. In web-publishing, this is typically accomplished by concatenating the words in question with a non-breaking space and, if available, by utilizing the orphans: and widows: attributes in Cascading Style Sheets. Sometimes it can also be useful to add non-breaking spaces to the first two (or few) short words of a paragraph to avoid that a single orphaned word is placed to the left or right of a picture or table, while the remainder of the text (with longer words) would only appear after the table.

Most full-featured word processors and page layout applications include a paragraph setting (or option) to automatically prevent widows and orphans. When the option is turned on, an orphan is forced to the top of the next page or column; and the line preceding a widow is forced to the next page or column with the last line.

In technical writing where a single source may be published in multiple formats, and now in HTML5 with the expectation of viewing content at different sizes or resolutions, use the word processor settings that automatically prevent widows and orphans. Manual overrides like inserted empty lines or extra spaces can cause unexpected white space in the middle of pages.


  1. ^ Carter, Rob A widowed line, highlighted in yellow. Day, Ben. Meggs, Philip. Typographic Design: Form and Communication. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons: 1993. p. 263
  2. ^ a b Chicago Manual of Style
  3. ^ Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style. 3rd ed. Hartley and Marks Publishers: 2004. pp. 43-44 ISBN 0-88179-206-3
  4. ^ Chicago Manual of Style, 3.11 Overall appearance: "A page should not begin with the last line of a paragraph unless it is full measure and should not end with the first line of a new paragraph."
  5. ^ Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition, 2.113: "A page should not begin with the last line of a paragraph unless it is full measure. (A page can, however, end with the first line of a new paragraph.)"

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Widows_and_orphans — Please support Wikipedia.
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3823 news items

Vox Online News
Fri, 31 Jul 2015 08:22:30 -0700

As was announced in the Budget last month, the Government yesterday published a Bill which allows those officers, including existing Government pensioners, who were previously covered by the Widows and Orphans Pension Scheme the option to re-enter ...


Wed, 08 Jul 2015 04:44:06 -0700

Annette said the Both Hands concept is taken from a passage in the Bible referring to helping widows and orphans in their distress. The Kruscheks began sending letters informing others about the project last weekend. So far, 25 people serve on their ...
Greeneville Sun
Thu, 16 Jul 2015 20:02:51 -0700

Beersheba Lodge No. 449, F&AM, has made a contribution to the Widows and Orphans Funds at Grand Lodge (the state Masonic organization), a news release announced. The contribution was made in honor of the late Tony Williams Sr., the late William ...
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 08:56:15 -0700

Recently, Evangelist Ebi'Ogiri decided to formally establish her passion through a Non-governmental Organisation (NGO), which takes keen interest in rekindling hope on the faces of widows and orphans. Writes Akinwunmi Ibrahim. Yes! Her name may ...
Bahrain News Agency
Sun, 12 Jul 2015 03:52:30 -0700

Manama, July 12 (BNA): His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued Royal Order for defrayal of Eid Al-Fitr clothing to all widows and orphans registered with the Royal Charity Organisation (RCO), and tasked HH Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa to ...
CNN (blog)
Sun, 02 Aug 2015 07:15:00 -0700

He said - suggested that you need to come to New Jersey and hear from the widows and orphans affected by 9/11. Senator Lindsey Graham has said that when it comes to foreign policy, you're - you're weaker than Hillary Clinton. How much are you going to ...
The Killeen Daily Herald
Fri, 31 Jul 2015 02:33:45 -0700

VFW POST 8577 has service officers available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1506 Veterans Ave., for assistance filing VA claims or counseling of veterans, widows and orphans. Call Craig Lacey at 254-542-2748. THURSDAY, Aug. 6. THE ASYMCA has yoga from ...

Mission Network News

Mission Network News
Sun, 26 Jul 2015 21:06:59 -0700

James 1 says, “True religion is caring for the widows and orphans in their distress.” Orphan Outreach is doing just that, and today they have an incredible need. Orphan Outreach Program Director Amy Norton is in Manali, India, with a mission team from ...

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