unhappy endings, part 2: widows and orphans

“My Dearest Beloved, I am writing you this letter with the believe you will treat my message with utmost honesty and sincerity…”

No, no, no. I’m talking about widows and orphans in typography, not internet scams. Duh.

A widow is the last word or line of a paragraph that appears at the beginning of the next column or page.

An orphan is a word or part of a word that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph.

widows and orphans3
Half of the websites written about good typography will tell you the exact opposite, so I went to the boss — The Chicago Manual of Style.

Widows and orphans interrupt the reader’s flow, waste space, and make you look like an amateur.

And never, ever, leave a subhead at the bottom of a column. Never. Ever.

Depending on what software you’re using, you can find lots of info online about how to fix these horrors. If you work with a meticulous editor, as I do, you won’t have a choice about whether or not to fix them. You’ll learn to mess about with hyphenation, letterspacing, wordspacing, and soft returns to avoid unhappy endings. And clients.

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