The image above is two screenshots, taken of a formatted print book, set next to each other so you can see what happens when you format a print book in Microsoft Word WITH ORPHANS/WIDOWS/KEEP WITH NEXT activated.

Ugly, huh?  There is a good line’s worth of space on the left side that doesn’t match up with the right hand page.  This is hideous.  If you open any traditionally published book, you will not see this happening.  Ever.  Because book designers understand that the way a book LOOKS is just as important as the quality of editing or storyline.

Now check out this picture below WITHOUT the widows/orphans/keep with next activated.

Perfectly blocked text on either side.  It is uniform and lovely. THAT is how a print book should look.

Now, the one problem you may think you have when opting to lose the widows/orphans is the fact that not every page will end on a perfect paragraph like the above example.  The school of thought on this stuff is half & half — some people prefer the nasty white space and some people prefer the widows and orphans.

To this I say: who cares??  Your reader is going to be so into that story that her little eyeballs will be flowing so fast over the text she won’t even notice she’s switched pages in the middle of a sentence.  While ending a print page on a paragraph used to be industry standard, all the research I’ve done on it shows this is no longer the case. That awful white line looks TERRIBLE, whereas a single line ending a page does not.

If you’re very worried about widows/orphans, the best way to fix the problem is to change the text until the lines fall the way you want them to.  It may be a matter of deleting a single word, or adding a couple extra.  It’s an artistic process, and thus one for the author alone, not the formatter.  For my methods as a formatter, I always eliminate orphans/widows because not only is the worry about it archaic, but I honestly don’t want a book out there formatted in my name that looks awful with that white space.

I vote NO on widow/orphan control, and yes for pretty blocks of text.

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