I have some copy that I am setting as ragged-right, but I am trying to set it in the cleanest possible way without egregious rags while also avoiding creating orphans. With the current text, it seems I am stuck in between a rock and a hard place. When I try to avoid the large dip in the text length, I get an orphan at the end, but when I try to get rid of the orphan I get a rag. I am currently following the following guide:


as I am an neophyte. The Author suggests that you solve for rags by manually creating the line breaks, which is what I have been doing. I don't know if this small problem merits messing with column width or font-size, which both seem last resort options. Is there some process or algorithm which designers use to make the cleanest ragged right text that I am unaware of, which could get me out of my current situation?

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Or maybe one of the above is professionally acceptable, but I wouldn't know as I don't know the guidelines.

  • 2
    For print pieces, I'll often manually insert soft returns to assist in readability. While column widths can help, it still often takes a couple soft returns in specific places. In your samples, the top image is much better overall, but I'm sure you know that. :)
    – Scott
    Jun 30, 2015 at 17:31

3 Answers 3


The rule of thumb is that ragged-right is always acceptable as an option. Your challenge is that you have rather narrow columns, so the rag is simply more pronounced in relation to the overall block of text.

Typically you handle the rag 'evenness' via hyphenation. But excessive hyphenation isn't always desired. DTP software such as InDesign often have decent hyphenation algorithms but there's no one magic formula.


If you're using InDesign, you can choose "Balance Ragged Lines" under the paragraph tool palette see attached image


There isn't really a formula. You have to use hyphenation, soft returns, maybe a little kerning, and your own judgement.

(Also, some clients are so hysterically allergic to hyphens that they will accept any dreadful rag or white space to avoid them, so "client preference" may also be a variable.)

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