Glossary of Terms: Widows, Orphans, Gutters, Rivers
Continued here, a series of semi-regular glossary entries to look at the odd, quirky jargon of publishing:
- widow—in the layout of a publication, a short line of text that ends a paragraph and appears at the top of a page; a feature that editors and designers try to avoid by changing wording or spacing
- orphan—in the layout of a publication, a short line of text that appears at the bottom of a page, or a word or word part appearing on its own at the end of a paragraph; a feature that editors and designers try to avoid by changing wording or spacing
- gutter—the area of the two inner margins on facing pages in a book; an area where, for example, an editor or designer would note that a marginal definition or key illustration should not fall
- river—an area of white space, running through text vertically, created by word spacing. A river might develop because of word spacing in justified text. Editors and designers try to avoid rivers because they distract the eye from the horizontal flow of reading.
These terms and recommendations applied to printed/paper books, however, don’t apply so easily to other formats. For example, web sites have no gutters. And the option to adjust e-books for type size and font mean that e-books can lay out in many different ways, making orphans, orphans, widows, and rivers unavoidable.