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Eliminating Widows and Orphans in your Word documents

What are widows and orphans in document formatting?

Applies to: Word 2010, Word 2013, Word 2016

Widows and Orphans are the terms referring to lines left on their own either at the beginning or end of the page of a multi-page document.

Widow: a line on its own at the beginning of the next page
Orphan: a line on its own at the end of the page

As in (example of widow – heading left on its own at the bottom of the page):

Side heading

__________________________________(page break here)
Text for following paragraph…..

“Widow and Orphan control” is a tricky little feature that behaves differently in different versions of Word.
Ideally, your Side Heading style should be set up to ensure that Widows and Orphan control is on, and that “Keep with next” is selected.

If, however, you are not using styles in your Word document (I highly recommend this for greater control over you documents), you can use a quick fix in the above situation:

  1. Place your cursor in the Side Heading paragraph* (*if you have added an empty line to create space after the heading you will need to select this as well)
  2. Click the Home tab and click the down arrow in the bottom right corner of the Paragraph section
  3. Select Line and Page Breaks
  4. Check that Widow/Orphan control is ticked
  5. Tick Keep with next
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