Widow/Orphan Control

Why does Microsoft Word make so many assumptions about what we want? Auto correct, auto spellcheck and auto format are often annoying, but now I just found out about the “widow/orphan control.” Did you know about this? I was looking for manuscript formatting help online, found Lousia Burton’s website and discovered a brand new trick in Word.

Have you ever noticed that you can’t get the bottom of your pages on word to line up where you want them? If you hit enter, a whole paragraph jumps to the next page, but if you try and backspace, it won’t put just a couple of the lines on the page? I’ve discovered the solution! It’s the widow/orphan control! I think I should just let Louisa explain it:

“When the last line of a paragraph from the previous page gets stranded all by its lonesome at the top of the next page, that’s a “widow.” The first line of a paragraph appearing by itself at the bottom of a page while the rest spills over onto the next page is an “orphan.” Don’t listen to Word’s help menu when it says widows and orphans are contrary to “a professional-looking document.” We like widows and orphans in the novel-writing biz. They give us nice, uniform pages with the same number of lines on each page. In Word, the default is to prevent them, so this should be turned off by unchecking that option. You should also uncheck the “keep with next” and “keep lines together” options. The first is meant to avoid page breaks between paragraphs, the second to avoid paragraphs from breaking onto two pages. None of this this odd, anal-retentive formatting belongs in a novel manuscript; it just creates irritating gaps in your document. Most writers turn off the hyphenation, too.

In the 2007 version of Word I found the widow/orphan check box under the page layout tab, and Line and Page breaks. You’ll see a box, automatically checked called the Widow/Orphan control. Uncheck it!

I hope this helps and saves a little bit of your sanity while fighting with your manuscript formatting. 🙂



Filed under Advice for Writers from the Pros!, Random Wickhamness, Sandra's Writing

2 responses to “Widow/Orphan Control

  1. See? Stuff like this is why I *love* you! Going to go turn that frakker off right now.

  2. LOL. Well, thank you. I *love* you too! 😉

    It’s crazy, right? All this time I could NOT figure out why that was happening. Dang word.

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