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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, thus separated from the rest of the text.

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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The Times of Israel (blog)

The Times of Israel (blog)
Fri, 09 Oct 2015 03:30:00 -0700

Next week, the IDF Widows and Orphans Organization will come together at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem to celebrate the Bar and Batmitzvah of 45 IDF orphans. The same Western Wall that Corporal Aharon Benitta z”l was on his way to, with ...

Daily Trust

Daily Trust
Mon, 05 Oct 2015 20:45:00 -0700

Nigerian-Turkish International College (NTIC) Foundation has distributed packs of meat to widows and orphans in more than 20 states in the spirit of last Sallah celebration. About 600 cows were slaughtered and distributed, in an event which was ...


Mon, 21 Sep 2015 16:37:30 -0700

Jos—Widows and orphans, whose husbands and parents were killed by the insurgents in the North East of Nigeria, have been urged not to lose hope in life but have faith in God and summon courage to make something useful out of their lives.

Bronx Times

Bronx Times
Mon, 14 Sep 2015 11:35:14 -0700

... Run/Walk Commemorating 9/11 will make tracks this Saturday, September 12 at 10 a.m. from Eastchester Road to White Plains Road and back on Pelham Parkway with all proceeds to be donated to the Widows and Orphans of Fallen Police Officers Fund.

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Wed, 07 Oct 2015 13:03:45 -0700

On the other hand, Francis is a pragmatist, and he noted in a talk to bishops on the last day of his visit that when the Apostles realized they couldn't take care of the needs of all the widows and orphans, the Holy Spirit inspired them and “they got ...

The Killeen Daily Herald

The Killeen Daily Herald
Thu, 08 Oct 2015 02:33:45 -0700

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Ballymena Times

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Sat, 10 Oct 2015 06:18:45 -0700

Lifelinehas been assisting the vulnerable in Kenya since July 2002, particularly widows and orphans. The ministry, which has 12 churches and six schools, was birthed in the heart of Wesley Kerr who will speak on its continuing work on the night.


Fri, 09 Oct 2015 05:01:51 -0700

... happened when the city's mayor Rahm Emanuel made an appearance. Emanuel said: "It's easier being mayor than playing mayor. I told them I'd do it under one condition: the TV show is making an investment to the Firefighters' Widows and Orphans Fund.”.

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