The Cheeky Monkey Media Blog
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Widows & Orphans – Villains of TypographyJune 24, 2014 / Treena Bjarnason
In the world of ‘typography’ where the printed page is sometimes classified as a work of exquisite craft (or even art if you ask some typophiles), there are a duo of villains known as the widow and the orphan.
The widow and the orphan are both careless remnants that can disrupt a page’s “typographic colour”.
This really might seem like one of those pedantic issues that only stuffy designers care about, but it’s an issue that can be easily avoided once you know to look for it.
It should be noted that different sources will disagree with what a ‘widow’ and what an ‘orphan’ are, in fact, some sources reverse the meanings altogether. At the end of the day, regardless of what you call them, the transgressions should be identified and rectified.
The widow, is a word or word fragment that sits at the end of a paragraph of type. This will cause a visual disruption to the colour of the page.
The orphan is the worse of the villainous duo, whereas the widow sits at the bottom or end of a paragraph, the orphan sits at the top of a column or page. The orphan also breaks up the horizontal alignment across the top of the page which is very important.
Take extra care to avoid these two issues, by adjusting your copy (editing the copy to add or delete words) or other parameters of the design—such as kerning. In the world of blogs, Content Management Systems, and adaptive layouts (mobile/responsive), these issues might be unavoidable, but in the world of print this careless typographic faux pas should not be experienced.
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