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Controlling Widows and Orphans

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Controlling Widows and Orphans.

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. Choose the Paragraph option from the Format menu. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box.
  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 (1149) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Controlling Widows and Orphans.

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Comments for this tip:

Digmen1    25 Dec 2016, 11:57
The sooner everyone in the world updates to Word 2016 and or Office 365, the better.
Then we can all concentrate on just one version of Word and really get t know it.
Digmen1    25 Dec 2016, 11:54
Coudl you explain what the other 3 options do, eg "Keep with next"

Microsoft really need to up their game here. eg Keep with next.
Keep what, with next what?

Daniel    08 Jun 2016, 14:00
Ok my problem is keeping a section heading together with the next paragraph toward the end of a page. Even though there is room for 3 lines of text word places the next paragraph on the next page. It should place the first 3 lines of the paragraph below the heading. Pretty crazy. What do you call that? Ragamuffin? Castaway? Waif?
GeordieLad    01 Mar 2016, 07:03
For Bobby 29Feb2016

Why don't you read the "Please Note" box at the beginning of the tip which clearly points you to tips for later versions of Word! I don't know if the tip you want is there (I'm still using Word 2000) but it should stop you cluttering up this site.
Bobby    29 Feb 2016, 10:02
This is out of date for me, I have Microsoft Word 2013
Steve Dunham    24 Sep 2015, 10:30
Veronica, what you need is a nonbreaking space. You can search for all instances of "Mrs. Mackin" and replaced them with "Mrs.^sMackin" (that "^s" is what you use in the Find & Replace menu to designate a nonbreaking space.
Meredith    16 Aug 2015, 16:20
I'm using Word 2002 and can't seem to get this to work in a numbered list. Widow and orphan control is turned on, but it's not working. It's leaving the last line of one of my paragraphs on the next page (an orphan).I'm not sure if there's another way to fix this when dealing with a list. The list has a blank line between each of the numbers as well (which is the way I want it to funtion).
Veronica    19 Mar 2015, 13:12
I want to make sure "Mrs. Mackin" always appears together on the same line and are never separated.
Anna Jacobs    27 Dec 2014, 20:54
I did all that and it doesn't work. I have Word 2013 and I see that I'm not the only one having trouble. Ed is in the same struggle.

My theory is that the Microsoft boffins who create Word (and then change it unnecessarily) do not actually use the program day in day out to create documents.

Can't you do a business version for people like me (a novelist)? I only want to write documents and do emails, not do all that fancy stuff.
Rich    13 Dec 2014, 18:59
I'm having issues with the last word of the last line on a page jumping to the first line on the next page even though the page text is "justified." Strange. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
awyatt    25 Aug 2014, 14:27
Ed: You are correct; it does not apply to Word 2013. But if you click the link given at the beginning and end of the tip, you'll find a version that does apply to later versions of Word.

Ed    25 Aug 2014, 14:24
This tip does not apply to Word 2013. I have an existing 69 page document with a double linefeed to begin a new paragraph. Using any combination of one or all of the four Pagination rules, I still get widows and orphans throughout the document.

Still searching for the answer.
yuyu    17 Aug 2014, 09:52
wow this is amazing
Zino    20 May 2014, 07:40
It's very good, helped me a great deal. Thanks! ;>

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