Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Controlling Widows and Orphans.

Controlling Widows and Orphans

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 1, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


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In typographical terminology, widows and orphans are closely related (no pun intended). These terms refer to one (and sometimes two) lines of a paragraph left by itself on a page. A widow is the last line of a paragraph left by itself at the top of a page; an orphan is the first line of a paragraph left by itself at the bottom of a page. You will want to avoid both widows and orphans in your documents, as they break up the flow of the text and tend to distract the reader.

Word allows you to automatically control single-line widows and orphans in your documents. To control widows and orphans in your documents, follow these steps:

  1. Put the insertion point in the paragraph that has either the widow or orphan text. (If you want this applied to all the paragraphs in your document, you can select all of them by pressing Ctrl+A.)
  2. Display the Paragraph dialog box. (Display the Home tab of the ribbon and click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Paragraph group.)
  3. Display the Line and Page Breaks tab. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Line and Page Breaks tab of the Paragraph dialog box.

  5. Make sure the Widow/Orphan Control check box is selected.
  6. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (12695) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Controlling Widows and Orphans.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is five less than 5?

2020-02-01 13:31:57

Bill Hepburn

These things are pesky at best. I prefer to add the widow/orphan control to "Bills Paragraph Style" and use that for the text of the body. Someone told me years ago to not change "normal" because it can cause unpredictable results, but that would probably work too.

I tell the "Heading x" style to "keep with next". To avoid the headings for sections of the document from appearing on the bottom of the page with the text on the next page. That may be the default, but it has been too long to remember if I set it myself or not.

I tell table table properties to not allow rows to break across a page (while I'm there, I usually tell it to repeat the column headings on the next page as well). There are a lot of things in table properties that should be changed to maximize consistency between tables.

Then, just before finalizing the document, a quick scan through the document picks up any remaining awkward page breaks.


2020-02-01 11:59:43

Mike

I believe you have the Terms "Widow" and "Orphan" reversed.

A Widow is at the BOTTOM of the Page whereas an Orphan is at the TOP of the page.

Keep up the good work. Your information is sometimes very timely to the situation I am faced with.


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