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How to avoid widows and orphans - Word's pagination options

by Simon Hurst on 21.05.2010 10:19

Hidden on the ‘Line and Page Breaks’ tab of the Word paragraph formatting dialog are four useful options to control pagination in a document that flows onto two or more pages.

The first is perhaps the least obvious – Widow/Orphan control.


If you have a paragraph of two or more lines, then you can control what happens if that paragraph is split over a page break. Without Widow/Orphan control, the paragraph will happily end up with one line on each page. Turning on Widow/Orphan control prevents a line being marooned on page 1 with the rest of its lines on page 2 (a widow), and also prevents a single line ending up on page 2 (an orphan). Instead, at least two lines will always be kept together on each page.

The other options are rather more straightforward. ‘Keep with next’ will keep the paragraph on the same page as the next paragraph. The most obvious use of this is for headings, where you don’t want the heading to end up on one page, and the body it refers to, on the next.

‘Keep lines together’ will keep all the lines of the paragraph on the same page (unless it is longer than a single page).

Finally, ‘Page break before’ does what is says – it ensures the paragraph starts on a new page.

Although you can apply these options manually to each relevant paragraph, it’s much easier to incorporate them into your paragraph styles so, for example, any heading style would have ‘keep with next’ turned on.