Technical Editing & Production



Scribus tracking

Tracking for widows and orphans control


Revise this text. (you'll probably need to right click and Save as.." I've played with it some and it doesn't have headings or figures. Just ignore the content and worry about learning how to adjust paragraphs for widow and orphan control.

You'll be setting the tracking on some paragraphs and eliminating orphans.

If you feel like banging your head against the wall, try doing this with Word.


Longer discussion with pictures and tips

Widows and orphans ruin the aesthetics of text and should be avoided whenever possible. Because of the unnatural break they create, both interrupt the reader's eye as it flows across the page.

A widow is a heading or the first line of a paragraph at the end of page. It may also refer to the last line of a paragraph or list at the top of a page. In a properly designed text, there should always be at least two lines of text after heading and two lines of a paragraph at the top of a page.

An orphan is having 1 or 2 (short) words on a line at the end of a paragraph.

Do not have any widows or orphans in your document. Checking for widows and orphans are one of the last things to do before printing a final copy. Do not worry about them until the text is written and revised. Fixing them requires hand-tweaking text, which is something to avoid until the last possible moment.Otherwise, you will introduce more of them as you make other text changes. (When I created the CRC for a 200 page book, I had to go through the entire book, paragraph by paragraph, to check for orphans. A very tedious task.)

On a longer document, if the last page only has a few lines, this can also be used to bring those lines up to the previous page. (Or turn a 7 page research paper into a full 8 page paper and still use the dictated font size & line spacing :-)

Playing with the kerning is also a good way of creating a simple effect for logos, newletter names, etc. so that they look a little different. Many logos have the letters almost touching. A newsletter may spread the name across the top of the page with lots of space between each one.

To fix widows,

You can also fix widows by adjusting either the line spacing or tracking. tracking is the only way to fix orphans. (tracking is the space between all the letters in a line; kerning is space between individual letter....they are often used interchangably.) You adjust the spacing within the paragraph to either pull up the single word or push a couple of more words down onto the line. Be careful you don't make it too obvious that the text is smashed or spread out.

Example of text with 100% and 90% tracking

These two paragraphs have the same text at the same font size & line spacing. The only difference is how closely packed the letters are.

Adjusting the tracking

You'll find orphans are (trival in InDesign), clunky in Scribus, and and almost impossible to handle in Word

Word: Open font dialog box, character spacing tab. It defaults to adjusting by 1pt, which is way too much. Try it and see.

Scribus: Highlight the text and then adjust it from the Properties dialog.

The spin dials change the value by 1%. You can type in any value you want: for example 99.85%

The problem is that you often want much less than 1%, closer to .1% (note the decimal). That will pull up the 1-2 words at the end of a paragraph or bring 2 words down. A 1% change packs the letters too much. When you adjust the tracking, you want to do it a minimal amount.


Design by Michael J. Albers Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
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