Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 4, 2017)


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.
  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, and 2013. 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 three less than 4?

2015-06-11 11:13:53


If I set up the style of the document so that widows and orphans don't occur, this still only applies to actual paragraphs of text. I still have unwanted widows and orphans in the form of the last or first line of a bullet list, or the header for a paragraph (which is a specific header style so that it will appear in my TOC). Is there a way to stop these types of widows and orphans from occurring automatically? If it was a single document, I would just do it manually. But unfortunately I have multiple templates for various FAT, QAP, and Narrative documents we have to create for each and every control system we fabricate. The templates have limited info in the form of written paragraphs, because that information is written in for each specific document we are providing to the end customer. But the headers and many of the bullet lists are similar enough that not much of that changes from the original template to the final document.

2015-05-12 14:48:05


On the last page of my document I have the opportunity to insert text (part of the form I use). If there is nothing to insert, I have to delete the page by deleting the section break (the only way I know how to do that). The last page will not delete unless I do it that way. Unfortunately, when I do this, I lose the footers and headers on previous pages. I was wondering if there is a way to delete the last page without losing any headers or footers.
Thank you, Nancy

2014-12-02 11:02:13


I know this may sounds silly, but i am still not sure when this is used. I see how to toggle it but when is something like this handy?

2014-08-25 18:48:13


Ed: I think you misunderstand. There are two ways of applying this information without the need to "MANUALLY search" anything.

First, you could select the entire document (Ctrl+A) and change the setting.

Second, a better way is to define the setting as part of the styles you use in your document.

Either way, there is nothing manual about it -- the setting is then automatically applied throughout the document, even if you change where page breaks occur by adding or removing paragraphs.


2014-08-25 14:29:25


Not a viable answer to the problem of widows/orphans in a Word 2013 document. First, why would you MANUALLY search for and then individually protect widows/orphans in a69 page document? Second, this system of MANUALLY searching out and repairing all widow/orphans will not carry across to other (previous) Worde versions. Thus, a renewed widow/orphan appearance will orccur.

Still looking for an answer.

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