What Is Orphan Control?

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Orphan control is an automatic pagination preference in Microsoft Word. It is combined with widow control to prevent awkward page breaks in the middle of paragraphs, and the default setting is "On." Widow and orphan control can be a helpful feature, but some people find it distracting and unhelpful. Luckily, it is easy to turn on and off, and even apply selectively.

Widows and Orphans

  • Widows and orphans happen when there is not enough room at the end of a page for the last paragraph, and a portion of it ends up on the next page. If only the first line of the paragraph fits at the bottom of the first page, it is called a widow. If only the last line of the paragraph ends up at the top of the second page, it is called an orphan. Widow and orphan control only kicks in when less than two lines of the paragraph are separated from the rest.

Access Settings

  • Widow and orphan control is the default setting in Microsoft Word, but it could be unintentionally disabled. To restore it, open the "Format" menu in the tool bar at the top of the page and select "Paragraph." Click on "Line and Page Breaks," and select "Widow and Orphan Control." To turn it on for one paragraph or document only, highlight the text before going the through the above steps. To turn off orphan and widow control, follow the same steps. Clicking on "Widow and Orphan Control" when it is activated will turn it off.

Advantages

  • If a reader is quickly skimming the document, the eyes naturally tend toward large blocks of text. If there are several paragraphs on the page, the reader begins turning the page as he reaches the end of the last paragraph. If there is a single line after the last paragraph, the reader can easily turn the page without noticing it. Additionally, forcing the reader to follow a paragraph from one page to another breaks his concentration and reduces the enjoyment of reading.

Disadvantages

  • Some writers find the automatic pagination distracting and counterproductive. In some cases, it can create large areas of unwanted white space at the beginning or end of the page. Sometimes it is helpful to write the document without widow and orphan control, then go back and selectively apply it as needed.

Alternatives

  • Instead of using automatic widow and orphan control, some writers prefer to manually go through the document and break pages and paragraphs where they see fit. Using the space bar and the return key to position text is just as effective as the automatic setting and can reduce some of the disadvantages, but it is tedious work and can be very time consuming. To insert a manual page break, click the desired break line and open the "Insert" menu. Click "Break," and select "Page Break."

References

  • Photo Credit woman hands typing on laptop keyboard image by .shock from Fotolia.com
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