If you’re like me, you may have noticed that text can look different depending on the constraints of it’s container. It’s not necessarily the size of the container that makes the difference, but the text contained within that can make your writing look either professional or amateurish. This is mainly due to one phenomenon. When it comes to writing from a designer’s perspective, any credible designer will avoid text that contains a widow or orphan. Changing the dimension of the container, the text size or the text altogether can alleviate them. But what exactly is a widow or orphan? I’m glad you asked.
“When it comes to writing from a designer’s perspective, any credible designer will avoid text that contains a widow or orphan.”
A widow or orphan in typography is a single word at the beginning or end of a paragraph, column or page that hangs out of context. A widow dangles at the bottom of a paragraph, column or page, whereas an orphan does so at the top. It dangles on its own on a single line and can give your writing an unbalanced feel. Any credible designer will avoid widow or orphan text at all cost as it gives the writing an amateurish look from a designer’s perspective.
“A widow dangles at the bottom of a paragraph, column or page, whereas an orphan does so at the top.”
The problem with a widow or orphan is that it draws attention away from the message because it’s poorly designed. You may have noticed it, but not necessarily knew what the phenomenon was called. To solve this problem, simply adjust the text, text-size or container so that there is no less than two words at the beginning or end of the paragraph, column or page. Make it no less than three or four to achieve a more balanced state with the rest of the content.
“The problem with a widow or orphan is that it draws attention away from the message because it’s poorly designed.”
Widows and orphans in web design may be hard to avoid because of the responsiveness of modern designs. However, you can test your text at various widths and make adjustments for them as needed. For traditional print media such as flyers, brochures and magazines, it’s easier to avoid if you pay careful attention to the design.
“…test your text at various widths and make adjustments for them as needed.”
The next time you’re reading from a periodical, spot to see if you can locate any widows or orphans. If you find one or many, that’s a tell-tale sign that the periodical is not very focused on design. If you need some professionally designed flyers or brochures that avoids widows or orphans, contact us to complete your project.
Sokly Sa is Founder, President & CEO at The Lucky Tekkie Inc. He was born on October 7th, 1984 and made his entrance into the world at a United Nations refugee camp located in Thailand. He immigrated to Canada with his family when he was five years old and immediately fell in love with the Commodore 64 at his uncle's home. He grew up immersed with computer and technology and enjoyed playing computer games when he was younger. Between being a straight A-student in elementary school and his homework course load, Sokly kept entertained with games such as Sim City, Sid Meier's Civilization and MegaRace. He first learned HTML in grade seven, at the age of 13, when a friend in junior high shared a tutorial on the markup language.
In 2005, Sokly graduated from the Adult Learning Centre in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada as Valedictorian. He then attended CDI/Everest College and graduated in 2007 in the Programmer Analyst/Web Developer program. Sokly's first professional IT experience was as an entrepreneur, when he quickly built up his portfolio to gain an entrance into the industry. Sokly was employed as a Web Developer at The Strategy Institute in Toronto, Ontario, from 2011-2013, then moved onto other companies, including digOnline (Digital Internet Group Inc.) and EyeLook Media. Sokly has also worked for national and global corporations, including Telus, where he worked as a Sales Representative at a Corporate Store; TeleTech, where he worked as a Customer Service Representative (Billing & Technical Support) on behalf of Charter Cable; Convergy as a Technical Support Representative, working on behalf of AT&T; and at Marriott International, working as an Infrastructure Analyst and other roles related to Sales/Marketing, including his current role as a Luxury Service Associate.
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