Book Publishing Reflection – Paperback Formatting Widows/Orphans

So I thought I’ll start this little series of posts right in the middle of things. This is a topic  I briefly brought up in my post about publishing my book, Noble Death. While formatting my book for paperback(I did this in Word), one thing that I had to do some research on was the idea of widows and orphans.

Definitions first. These are based on things I’ve read about, although there were some differences in how the terms are define form place to place.

Orphan – The first line of a paragraph at the end of a page, or a very short final line in a paragraph (a word or two).

Widow – Last line of a paragraph at the top of a page.

First things first, when I heard of the subject I looked through my collection of books to find examples. It was really my first time hearing of widows and orphans in typesetting. What I found out is that orphans in books are not uncommon. Both types showed up in a multitude of book from paperback to hardcover, but the “high-end” book seemed to avoid them. Widows on the other hand never showed up. This brings me to the conclusion that we can concentrate on widows only.

So, of course, Word has something called Widow/Orphan control, but that causes problems. One way that it eliminated widows/orphans is with page breaks. Consequently, it uses a page break too early, so you end up an uneven number of lines per page. This might not be a big deal, but someone observant will know that something is wrong – maybe not consciously but unconsciously for sure.

The Fix – Credit goes to a Walton from the CreateSpace forum here.

A simple solution to this is changing the spacing. Keep in mind that I did it in Word so that’s what the instructions will be for, but I assume the same logic would apply to another piece of software that you might use, such as InDesign.

The following two points are straight out of Walton’s post.

1) Condensing:

If you have a widow and if you can remove a short last line of a paragraph before that, then you will have removed the widow.  Fonts > Advanced > Spacing > By > try -0.1pt. applied to a paragraph with a short last line.

2) Expanding:

If you have a widow and you can add a line to a paragraph before that, they you will have removed the widow. Fonts > Advanced > Spacing > by > try +0.1 pt applied to a paragraph with a full last line.

So while tedious, the idea is to go over the text, find the widows/orphans and adjust the spacing of the preceding paragraph. It’s a long process, but it makes the book look that much more profession.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave questions or ideas for future topics.

Patrick Rain

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