digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















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.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

3723 news items

Times LIVE

Times LIVE
Wed, 12 Aug 2015 06:12:29 -0700

“No one‚ beside those who lost their lives and their widows and orphans‚ have paid and are paying the price from that fateful day‚” said Capel. “Companies must learn that they cannot treat people as mere commodities and they must realise that South ...
Wed, 26 Aug 2015 21:18:45 -0700

Owerri — WIFE of Imo State Governor, Nkechi Okorocha, says her pet project, She Needs A Roof Project (SNARP), will build many more bungalows for indigent widows and orphans in the state's 27 local councils in the second phase of the programme.
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 22:48:23 -0700

Editor's Note: In memory of the U.S./Dakota War of 1862, the Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) has hosted a series of lunch time historical talks this week at the museum Annex. Thursday the talk was led by independent publisher Mary Bakeman from ...

Graphic Online

Graphic Online
Sun, 16 Aug 2015 21:52:30 -0700

The United Spiritual People (USP), a non-governmental organisation that supports the needy, has assisted 320 needy people comprising widows and orphans at Weija in the Greater Accra Region. Out of the number, 50 widows were given start-up capital ...
The Guardian Nigeria (satire) (press release) (blog)
Wed, 12 Aug 2015 05:17:20 -0700

Widowhood-14-2-15 An NGO based in Jos, Plateau, Bagos Foundation, has empowered 5,000 widows and orphans affected by the violence in the state, its Secretary, Mr Gyang Musa, has said. Musa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in ...

Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Monitor
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 06:52:30 -0700

Mattie has taught Noel her disdain for authority, so he and Vee team up, going door to door to collect for widows and orphans. (It is, in a certain sense, accurate, if not ethical.) As with all Vee's schemes, complications ensue. And when Donald's 4-F ...
Hamilton Spectator
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 11:45:00 -0700

They collect money for the phony "Dunkirk Widows and Orphans, Cricket Woods Division" or tell heartbreaking stories about Noel's father and her husband. He was on the last boat from Dunkirk, she would lie, but dove back in to rescue a pal. Sometimes ...
Philadelphia Neshoba Democrat
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 03:52:30 -0700

The purpose of the VFW is to Speed rehabilitation of the nation's disabled and needy veterans, assist veterans' widows and orphans and the dependents of needy or disabled veterans, and promote Americanism by means of education in patriotism and by ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight