by anthony on 10/21/14 at 12:34 pm
Did you know that the way your paragraph text wraps can affect how users read it? You could create orphans that hurt readability. Orphans are short lines that appear at the end of a paragraph. They are caused by paragraph length.
When users read lines of body text, they build up a reading rhythm. Orphans interrupt the user’s reading rhythm and cause an awkward ending. The shortness of the last line makes finishing the paragraph feel abrupt. When reading aloud, orphans make the ending sound disjointed. A good paragraph should flow from beginning to end.
Orphans don’t just make your text sound awkward, they also make it look awkward. They create disproportionate rags in your body text. This makes the paragraph look asymmetrical and off-balance. The rags can also create lines of whitespace that can distract users. An ideal rag should go in and out from line to line in small increments.
To avoid orphans, try to extend the ending line of your paragraphs past the midpoint of the body text. There are a few ways you can do this.
- Adjust the spacing between words to create tighter or looser paragraphs.
- Adjust the column width of the body text so that the lines form proportional rags.
- Edit the paragraph wording so that the orphan connects to its preceding line.
The best way to remove an orphan is to edit the paragraph so that it uses more or fewer words. This is because adjusting word spacing and column widths changes the consistency of your page layout text. It’s best to remove an orphan after you’ve written your paragraph. This way you’re only changing the wording, not the message of the paragraph.
Don’t write paragraphs for your website and leave it at that. Look for orphans and remove them from your body text to give users the best reading experience. It’s not possible to remove every orphan especially if your site uses responsive design. But try to at least keep your orphans to a minimum for users who view your site on their desktop device.