In writing and formatting, there are two main approaches that are used to avoid unbalanced lines and improve the overall appearance of the text: formatting for widows and orphans, or bottom balancing.
Widows and orphans refer to single words or short lines that appear at the beginning or end of a paragraph, with the rest of the sentence appearing on the previous or next page or column.
Bottom balancing, on the other hand, involves adjusting the lengths of paragraphs so that the last line of each paragraph is approximately the same length, which can help to create a more cohesive and visually appealing layout.
Many authors and typographers have strong opinions on which of these techniques is best to use, with some advocating for the use of widows and orphans to avoid leaving single words or lines at the top or bottom of a page, and others arguing that bottom balancing is a more effective and aesthetically pleasing solution.
In this article, I’ll walk you through both techniques, and give you some insight into a tool that will allow you to format either way.
- What widows and orphans are
- What bottom balancing is
- How to format each
Table of contents
In this article, I’ll be using Atticus to demonstrate how to properly format Widows and Orphans or Bottom Balancing. We’re excited to demonstrate it for you.
What Are Widows and Orphans?
The term “widow” refers to a single word, or a very short line, that appears at the end of a paragraph, with the rest of the sentence appearing at the top of the next page or column.
This can be an issue in typesetting, as it makes the text look unbalanced and can be disruptive to the reader.
In order to avoid widows, it is best to make sure that each paragraph has at least two lines at the end, so that no single word or very short line is left on its own at the top of the next page or column.
The term “orphan” refers to a single word, or a very short line, that appears at the beginning of a paragraph, with the rest of the sentence appearing at the bottom of the previous page or column.
Like widows, orphans can be disruptive to the reader and make the text look unbalanced.
In order to avoid orphans, it is best to make sure that each paragraph has at least two lines at the beginning, so that no single word or very short line is left on its own at the bottom of the previous page or column.
What is Bottom Balancing?
Bottom balancing refers to the practice of adjusting the length of a text or document so that the bottom of the last line on each page is at the same level, or “balanced.”
This can help create a more aesthetically pleasing and professional-looking document, as well as making it easier to read.
Most formatting tools are not able to automatically perform bottom balancing while also fixing widows and orphans.
This is because bottom balancing, along with fixing widows and orphans, involves making adjustments to the layout and formatting of a document, which can be a complex and time-consuming process.
In order to achieve bottom balancing and fix widows and orphans, a person typically needs to manually adjust the text, font sizes, margins, and other formatting options in the document. This requires a good understanding of typography and design principles, as well as a keen eye for detail.
Thankfully, we’ll be using Atticus, which makes this whole process a lot easier.
How to Format to Optimize Widows and Orphans
To optimize widows and orphans in a book manually in a program like Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign, you need to carefully control the layout and formatting of the text.
This involves choosing the right font, setting the appropriate margins and page size, and using paragraph and character styles to control the formatting of the text. It is also important to preview and proofread the book to make sure that the layout is consistent and free of widows and orphans.
This process may require some trial and error, but with careful attention to detail, you can create a book that is well-formatted and free of widows and orphans.
With Atticus, you can automatically adjust for widows and orphans by selecting the option in the Formatting menu:
Once that is in place, all those pesky widows and orphans will be in their appropriate spot.
If you prefer optimizing for widows and orphans, this automated process makes it easy for you to have what you need, so you don’t have to manually adjust each page.
How to Format to Optimize Bottom Balancing
Formatting manually for bottom balancing is even harder. To do this, you have to ensure that no widows or orphans appear at the top or bottom of each page.
You'll want to adjust the layout and formatting of your book to prevent widows and orphans from appearing. This may involve adjusting the font size, line spacing, and margins, as well as adjusting the length of your pages by adding or removing text.
Some programs have automated ways of doing this, but often you have to manually adjust the text in your book. This may involve adding or removing words or phrases, or adjusting the font size or line spacing. This can be incredibly time-consuming.
Thankfully, Atticus will also do this automatically for you.
Just like when optimizing for widows and orphans, simply go to the formatting menu and select “Balanced Page Spread”.
Then, everything is done for you. If you’re on the bottom balancing side of the debate, this is the solution for you!
The debate between optimizing for widows/orphans and bottom balancing in book formatting can be a challenging one for authors.
Thankfully, we now have Atticus, which makes it easy to achieve the perfect balance, no matter what your preference may be.
Whether you prefer to optimize for widows/orphans or bottom balancing, Atticus has you covered.Check Out Atticus Today