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enter image description hereI've an ugly page break where I'm forced with a dilemma: a pretty large amount of white space, or else a widowed (or maybe an orphaned? I'm not sure of the terminology) line on the next page (1st and 2nd images). What do people generally recommend in these cases? This isn't getting printed or anything, it's just a college essay that'll be submitted online, so I don't think that widows are as bad in this case as they would be on paper, but maybe my thinking is wrong there.

I think the white space might be caused in part by the annoying gap that Word leaves before footnotes (3rd images), so if anyone knows how to get rid of that generally that'd be great (most solutions I've read online tell me to delete ¶s before the line in Footnote Separator, but there are none there).

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    For a simple college paper I don't know that I'd be overly concerned with widows and orphans. Try to eliminate them when possible, but a little leeway would be fine in my opinion. (widow = start : orphan = end, easier to remember if you think of "missing parent = orphan") For a print piece, I'd adjust little things in the text on the page, add 0.5pt of leading to preceding paragraphs, add 1pt to space after/before paragraphs, But all that's near impossible in Word (which is why it's not used by designers really). – Scott Apr 14 at 21:44
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You can control the margins of the document. Go to Page Layout -> Margins -> Custom Margins.

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For this kind of college paper or really any type of single page report, it's completely normal to have a design principle where you start your content at the same top margin and when you run out of place you simply switch to the next page. So the white space in the bottom will be different on each page.

In a book or in a magazine you always see the two pages of a spread together and it's common to make sure everything snaps to the same baseline grid and that text and images follow the same top and bottom margin. This isn't easily achievable in Word and you seldom see Word documents attempt to do that. They are (or should be) more "programmed" than "designed" in my opinion.

I don't find the gap before your footnotes visually annoying at all. On the contrary I actually thinks it's a good thing to have a little space between the main text and the footnotes. If the space is too small it can be hard for the reader to differentiate between the two.

There is probably some setting in Word to decrease the whitespace before footnotes, but that would only solve that specific case you show here. The principle would be the same. If your text was one line longer, your text would end up the same place anyway.

To prioritize the reading experience I would go with the whitespace instead of widows/orphans.

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