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.

Controlling Widows and Orphans

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 22, 2021)


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.

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 four more than 0?

2022-01-21 13:41:42


Hey, thank you for this! I get so frustrated with Word making decisions for me. I often have to google the work-around, and usually have to read at least a few of them before I find a solution that works for whatever problem I'm having that particular day. I found you this time, on the first try! Bookmarking. :)

2018-02-03 03:58:08


Yes, but is that just for that paragraph or the whole document?

2018-02-02 15:58:35

Prasad DN

Hi Allen,

how do i create a VBA macro that would automatically check for any widow and orphans in the word document and remove them.

We usually get around 200+ word documents with 50+ pages per day, and we need to manually remove the widows and orphans before printing them. The team is doing the same way you have mentioned above.

Looking forward desperately for a solution. :(

Prasad DN

2017-11-07 15:46:23


And then what? This did nothing. Box was already checked

2016-12-25 11:57:45


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.

2016-12-25 11:54:07


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?

2016-06-08 14:00:54


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?

2016-03-01 07:03:47


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.

2016-02-29 10:02:34


This is out of date for me, I have Microsoft Word 2013

2015-09-24 10:30:06

Steve Dunham

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.

2015-08-16 16:20:10


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).

2015-03-19 13:12:43


I want to make sure "Mrs. Mackin" always appears together on the same line and are never separated.

2014-12-27 20:54:02

Anna Jacobs

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.

2014-12-13 18:59:42


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.

2014-08-25 14:27:59


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.


2014-08-25 14:24:18


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.

2014-08-17 09:52:03


wow this is amazing

2014-05-20 07:40:00


It's very good, helped me a great deal. Thanks! ;>

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