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Have you ever been typing along in paper in Microsoft Word and it turns out you’d just have one sentence starting a paragraph at the bottom of the page? For some reason the program automatically moves the paragraph so that doesn’t happen. Sometimes you don’t want it to do that and thinking it was something automatic and unstoppable in the program, I’ve wasted a long time trying to force it to do what I wanted instead of what it wanted (which is usually a losing game in Word).

Today a student question lead me to the answer. The feature that does that is called Widow and Orphan control and while it sounds like something out of a bad dystopian sci fi flick, really it does just what I said, it makes sure paragraphs don’t break leaving just one line at the bottom of the page or just one line on the top of the next page. But the good news is, this isn’t really an automatic feature, it just defaults as on. You can turn it off if you want, or if you want it to automatically move the paragraph up or down to avoid that single line, you can make sure it’s turned on.

This blog does a nice job explaining it in detail complete with a screen capture:

Simply put – you find the control when you open the paragraph box by clicking on the small button on the lower right corner of the paragraph tab (this is the same box where you change your spacing from Multiple to single or double). Click on the Line and Page Breaks tab within the box and make sure it’s set like you want. A check in the box in front of Widow/Orphan Control means the feature is turned on and an unchecked box means it’s turned off. You can set it either way depending on what you want to accomplish.

By Sarah S. Uthoff, Reference Librarian