This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Nuts and Bolts: widows and orphans.

Who cares about widows and orphans?

Not me. No, not even though this blog generates orphans quite often (though never widows). I really couldn't care less.

I'm talking, of course, not of poor parentless children or bereaved wives, but of the widows and orphans that annoy copy-editors so much.

What are they? Well, you know how the first line of a paragraph of a printed book is generally indented (that is, it starts a little way in from the left-hand margin)? Well, if that line comes at the bottom of a page, it's an orphan.

You also get orphans when you have just one word, part of a word, or a very short line at the end of a paragraph.

If you have the last line of a paragraph on the first line of a page, that's a widow.

Copy-editors go to great lengths to avoid widows and orphans, even to the extent of rewriting paragraphs (I myself have been asked once or twice to rewrite stuff for this reason). Other tricks of the trade involve page-breaks, font sizes, spaces between 
l e t t e r s , and, in magazines and newspapers, bunging in quotations from the article in large print.

So there we are. I try to be a good person - kind, thoughtful and loving to all - but still, as far as I'm concerned the widows and orphans can multiply all over the place and I really don't think I'm going to care in the slightest.

How about you?

Word To Use Today: orphan. This word comes from the Latin word orbus, which means bereaved.


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