How to avoid widow and orphan lines, while also avoiding too large gaps appearing between the paragraphs on the previous page?

I figure that to strongly discourage widows and orphans, one would use a high but not infinite \widowpenalty and \clubpenalty value, such as


This in turn makes TeX to stretch the spaces between the paragraphs on the previous page, and one tries to strike the balance with penalties, so that the extra paragraph gaps are usually not noticeable.

However sometimes the difference on facing pages is really noticeable, are there other techniques or internals penalties to avoid this?

What are the manual correction techniques apart from \raggedbottom and \enlargethispage?

  • Related questions: LaTeX produces bad, widowed line and How do I prevent widow/orphan lines? Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 10:52
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    It may be a bit lame but when I encounter widows or orphans, I simply encourage my creativity and add a couple of sentences or do finishing touches. No general solution has worked for me every time so far. Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 11:01
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    @Harrold: this is the approach taken by Knuth himself, so it has some precedent. I don't have the reference in front of me, but I remember he wrote he found it valuable to force himself to rewrite a sentence to avoid a bad break because he has almost always found a way to improve wording of the sentence in the process.
    – Lev Bishop
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 14:56
  • @Lev: Suddenly my approach does not seem that odd to me any more, thank you for the information, Lev. It is indeed true that I often find better wording while eliminating widows and orphans manually so paradoxically, the lack of a general automatic solution comes handy, in the end. Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 15:24

1 Answer 1


You can try to set \looseness=1 or \looseness=-1 to make certain paragraphs one line longer or shorter, respectively. This is described in the TeXbook on page 103-104.

  • With \looseness=1 you normally need to put a few ~ between the last few words of the paragraph, or you'll end up with one-word final lines of paragraphs, which is not much of an improvement.
    – Lev Bishop
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 14:58
  • This can help to avoid those: \parfillskip 0pt plus 0.75\textwidth as suggested here. There might still be club words left, since stretching the lines of an already loosened paragraph might have even higher penalty than ending up with a club word.
    – Gambhiro
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 17:52
  • Thanks, loosening a few large paragraphs on the problematic page really does the job.
    – Gambhiro
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 17:58

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