One of the most tedious parts of preparing the paperback print-on-demand version of a book is fixing up the formatting to minimize hyphens, widows and orphans (single lines at the beginning or end of a page), and dangling words on a single line at the end of a paragraph. This is particularly difficult if you’re formatting on the cheap with a word processor rather than a proper page layout tool like InDesign.
Fortunately, LibreOffice includes some useful features which can make your life easier. I would assume other programs like Word will have similar options hidden away in their settings, too.
For example, I added a missing comma to this paragraph which used to be two lines, and it suddenly became three, leaving a dangling word at the end, and creating an orphan where it pushed the final line of the final paragraph on that page onto the next page.
So, how do we fix this? Changing margins would work, but would impact the entire book. Changing font size would work, but would stand out if we reduced it by even half a point. Revising the wording would work, but it’s already about as sparse as it can be.
The answer is in the character formatting:
The LibreOffice Character Format window has a ‘scale width’ option, which leaves the font height the same, but makes it wider or narrower. If you change this by a few percent, it will change the position of the words, but not be obvious to the reader. In this case, we’re changing it to 98%, for a tiny 2% reduction in character width.
Job done. We’re now back to two lines, and you can’t even see the joins.
Now, let’s look at another option. Instead of scaling the font horizontally, we could scale the entire page vertically.
Here’s the original page, with the evil paragraph which caused all this fuss:
So, next, we select all the text on the page, and choose paragraph formatting. If there were some dangling lines at the top of the page where a paragraph was split across a page break, we’d skip them.
The Paragraph Format window has a line spacing control, which lets you specify spacing as a percentage. In this case, we can set it to 98% to slightly reduce the spacing on this page.
This allows LibreOffice to move the orphan from the next page back to meet the widow on this one:
So there’s an alternate way to fix the page, without changing the paragraph. Personally, I prefer the character spacing change as this page will have one more line than the facing page, so the two will seem misaligned. But, it may be useful in some cases where you can’t fix the formatting any other way.