Widow’s, Orphans, and Forcing Odd Pages – Getting the Page Layout Right

A few good people, supportive friends, were the first to buy the initial version of this book.  I like smart and capable people… so after they finished congratulating me they could not help but offer up some advice on the page layout.  They were nice about it, working their way up to it and inserting praise between the constructive criticism.  Although it is hard to take, they were right.

I had fixed the margins and the text on the spine already, as documented in an earlier post.  The other thing they noticed was a lot of white spaces on the bottoms of some pages and that the major section pages, I called them parts, were not always starting on the odd pages. when holding the book they should be on the right page, not the left.

Well dang.  They were right.  So now I had to fix it and upload a new version. Argh.  But being that orders were not flying off the online shelf yet, now is the time to fix this sort of thing.

White Spaces at the Bottom of the Page

For the first issue, what was going on was that I had a problem where a few paragraphs of text were lining up such that one line was showing up on the next page. Really annoying. so I went into the paragraph style I used for my text and set it to “Keep lines together.”


That is what I wanted, right?

Wrong. that solved one problem but created these big white spaces on many pages:


This doesn’t bother me nearly as much as those annoying single lines, but it still looks bad.

Now comes the embarrassing part.

I have been using MS Word for more than 25 years. I have been clicking the checkboxes for Paragraph Line and Page Breaks that whole time.  And the top one, Widow/Orphan control. I’ve never bothered to figure out what that was.  Sigh.  turns out a when you get that last line of a paragraph on the next page, that is called a widow.  And when only the first line is on one page and the remainder of the paragraph is on the next page, that is referred to as an orphan.

When only the last line of the para­graph ap­pears at the top of the next page, that line is called a widow. When only the first line of the para­graph ap­pears at the bot­tom of the first page, that line is called an or­phan.  For decades I have ignored this very useful feature and wondered why Microsoft didn’t have an option to deal with this annoying problem with formatting paragraphs.

One click, problem solved:



Starting Chapters on Odd Pages

This is one of those book things I probably would have known if I would have read one of the countless articles on CreateSpace about formatting your book.  Chapters should always start on odd pages so when you opened the book, they would be on the right side.  It is just the way things are done.  My first version didn’t have that. Doesn’t it look strange:


So how do you fix it?

This is nothing new and the fix is built into MS Word.  You need to start your chapters as new sections, and you can set those sections to always be on the odd pages.  Use Layout > Breaks > Section Breaks > Odd Page.


I just did this in front of every chapter header and it worked…. sort of.  When I did this my page numbering restated for every section. So you have double click on your footer, then Header & Footer > Page Number > Format Page Numbers…


And click on “Page number continue” for all the sections but the first one.


Note how it puts in the totally blank page.  This image is from the PDF of the Word document.  In MS Word it just goes from page 19 to 21. Takes a little getting used to. Besides looking in MS Word, you can use the print command to see a print preview and that will also show blank pages.

Lesson Learned

After I got my own copies of the book, I was very excited about using them to find where I needed to make changes. But what I forgot is something that is basic – a new set of eyes will find new things to improve. And good friends will point it out in a nice way.

Want to see how it turned out in print? Buy the book.





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