Widows & Orphans - how important?


Right now I’m at the end of an evening of trying to fix the bug in Scrivener that causes the Project Statistics and printing from Compile Draft to hang. I have spent weeks and weeks on this same thing in the past. The bug is caused by the printing layout (which is generated to get a page count in Project Statistics) getting messed up when trying to avoid widows and orphans. This is an extremely tricky piece of code and may involve me getting even deeper into the text system than I have already done.

So, my question to you all is this: how important is the avoidance of widows and orphans to you? Would an editor really care about this in a manuscript (I doubt it)?

Right now, I’m thinking of removing the feature for 1.11 with a mind to look at it again in the future. It’s annoying to have to do that, but it is a big headache that is causing a lot of problems.

Thoughts appreciated.

All the best,

Do I care about the widows and ophans feature? Not at all. In fact, I used to turn it off even back when I used only Word. I find having a blank line at the bottom of a page more annoying that a single word at the top of the next.

Imo, a manuscript isn’t the final to-press copy anyway, so it doesn’t matter. It would only matter - again, imo - if the manuscript were camera-ready (to use an old phrase). Even with digital submissions, the formatting changes so what it looks like in the original is irrelevant.

Never used it, probably never gonna use it. I say kill it.

As I said in the other thread, I wasn’t even aware Scriv had w/o control. If it’s causing major hassles, drop it. Scriv was never meant to be a layout/full word processing app, remember - you said so yourself :slight_smile:

Same here – happy living without it. It’s a typesetter’s problem, not an author’s.


I’d say drop widows and orphans too; and I say that as someone who pushed Nisus about including it. But Scrivener is about drafting and what you’re compiling is a draft, not “camera-ready copy” as Studio717 said.

If it’s causing that much of a headache lose it. To me, if any of us (and I most certainly include myself in this) really needs W&E controlled, then we can export to RTF, text or DOC or whatever, import it into Nisus, Word, Mellel, whatever, and do the job there – I no longer remember enough about LaTeX, so I don’t know what the MultiMarkdown users would find, but I suspect W&A is inconsequential to them prior to the formatting in LaTeX, where I presume it will be done if necessary.


As I suggested in the other thread, let’s all be humanitarian and save the poor widows and orphans rather than mercilessly exterminating them. Keith has already spent way too much time on this nonessential feature.

Agree with all above.

This is a page layout thing. As far as I am aware, even LaTex doesn’t do an especially good job of it, as I had to go through and manually re-word when I wrote my thesis (yes, they really take marks off for these things…)

In Scrivener, if it is causing problems to an essential feature, dump it.


Widows and orphans are a page layout problem. Scrivener is not a page layout program. If it’s a choice between widow and orphan control and project statistics, I’ll take statistics every time.


Key line from my post in the L+stats thread:

For writers, worrying about widows and orphans is a bogus chore, foisted upon us by the MicroSoft geeks who assume everyone should be an Office zombie.

Keep W/O control as some sort of option if you want, but it is not a BFD.

Really, it’s not.


Widows and orphans are of no importance to me whatsoever. Scrivener is a great tool, the best I think, for writing – published appearance is another department. And the last thing one wants to think about when writing, I think.

best wishes,


Banging out text, I’m not concerned with line characteristics. I wouldn’t use the same font for working in Scriv and printing, so all that would get carried over into Mellel for my use.

At the same time, if one does any printing out of Scrivener, it should offer widow and orphan control. Would one print using “dumb” quotes, or prime for apostrophe? Twenty years after the Mac began to give us some actual typesetting capability, we decide it is, after all, just a typewriter?

I suppose my vote is disable it now, to help with the real problems folks are having with stats, but keep it near the top of things to fix.

And what in the world does MS Office have to do with orphans and widows? Bad typesetting was certainly an issue in plenty of Mac software before MS Office existed.

This is exactly what I do, because many editors ask for plain text, no-frills submissions. Because what looks right on my Mac may come out all weird at the editor’s end, after migrating through email and the Mac/Windows frontier. Because the appearance of the text on the page is not my job, and of zero interest to me.

Computers are superior to typewriters precisely because with computers one can forget typographical folderol like what the quote marks look like.

As for MS-Word, I think what people on this thread meant is that the dominance of Word pushes thousands of users to think that writing = desktop publishing.

I’m with the majority here that says: Suffer not the widows and orphans to trouble thy sleep, O Keith.

Leave it for Scrivener V2.


Agreed. Scrivener is not for making the final formatted output. Let some other program handle that.

My editor demands to have widow/orphans-control switched off in manuscripts I deliver. In the early stages it’s more important to have the same number of lines on every page, and the real work on orphans etc. is a very late process in the typesetting - it includes the arrival of first prints with some pages carrying notes like “please delete one line on this page”! (Yes, the typesetter demands from the author to actually change what he has written for the sake of this widow/orphans-rule!)

So, I’d say: Forget about widow/orphans-control in Scrivener. Should you, Keith, run out of reasons for postponing the actual writing of your future best-selling novel (the one that would end the development of Scrivener), I easily can tell you two dozens other features more useful than this one. :laughing:

Can I join the stampede? Keep widows and orphans control for v2; if I want to fuss over layout detail, I’ll export to a word processing package. Besides, I want to read Keith’s novel!

Edited to add – In case Keith is now kicking himself over spending so much time on a feature that everyone seems prepared to scrap, please note that I actually like having the ability to control widows and orphans, and it is a feature I have used and appreciated. I have projects that don’t need to go near a word processing package because of Scrivener’s output functionality, which obviously saves me time and hassle. But I am more than happy to wait (indefinitely) for this feature to be re-implemented.

Yep. Turn the widows and orphans out into the cold, at least for now. As has been repeated many times, Scrivening is not laying out pages.

I print Scrivener’s compiled drafts from a word processor, and let this latter care for any layout issue. So, I would suggest to remove the w/o control from Scrivener, until you have time for it.


Interestingly, I’ve just been looking through all the books on my shelf. All of them have widows and orphans. Which makes sense, because if widows and orphans were accounted for, then the pages would have different numbers of lines, which would look very odd on facing pages. Every single book I’ve looked at so far does not worry about widows and orphans…

Amusingly, a Google search on “‘standard manuscript format’, widows, orphans” returns only advice telling you turn OFF widows and orphans for manuscripts - which makes sense if a manuscript is to have a uniform number of lines per page. Examples of manuscripts (e.g. http://www.shunn.net/format/novel.html) also show widows and orphans to be present.

In other words, I’m spending a lot of time on a feature which many users - myself included - will only need to turn off anyway!

It seems that widow and orphan control is only really needed for documents which are intended for straight publication or for academic theses where universities require a certain level of typesetting. In these sorts of cases, I would expect users to export to another, dedicated layout program anyway. There is no way I would ever print a thesis from Scrivener for submission, I would want more control over footnotes etc in the final layout.

So… I have made the decision to remove widows and orphans control for 1.11 and for the foreseeable future. I will leave the code in there, commented out, so that I can return to it in the future if I so wish.

Many thanks for all of your responses - they have been very helpful.

All the best,