I found that the best way to avoid widows and orphans is setting penalties and using rubber lengths between paragraphs, for instance, \setlength{\parskip}{1pt plus 1pt minus 1pt}.

When I shared this piece of knowledge with the LaTeX Users Group, however, I was told that

[…] it's the default solution […] It is also disallowed by most publishers working to a grid or specifying type be set solid. It works best with a layout that allows or encourages space between non-indented paragraphs (like a business report).

Since then, I wonder how professional publishers who use LaTeX deal with pagination issues. Using \enlargethispage is another possibility, but just as awkward. And, well, if it can be done with Adobe InDesign, it certainly can be done with LaTeX (or ConTeXt etc.).

To sum up: what are the proper strategies, commands or settings one can use to accomplish industry-standard results when it comes to pagination?

2 Answers 2


In a book like the one you are writing that primarily deals with textual information, the TeX engine has to balance two conflicting constraints.

  1. Achieving a flushbottom layout
  2. Avoiding widows and orphans

If the baselineskip is set at a fixed size - which is the norm - the page can only contain so many multiples of this, say 30 lines of text. Depending on the write up TeX will have to decide between two bad choices, either not to achieve a flush at bottom layout or to accept a widow or an orphan and in most instances it will opt for the latter. Having had a look at the links you provided, your book only contains text and here lies the problem.

For a page that contains a lot of equations, figures or sections there is normally adequate glue allowed by LaTeX to adjust the layout to an optimum, but even in such cases there will be instances that the mathematically optimum result might not be what you want.

It is said that George Bernard Shaw would examine galley proofs of his work and recast sentences, or even whole pages, in order to avoid unsightly word breaks, excessive white space caused by justification, and other typographical difficulties. Of course, he was published at a time when typesetters were sent to the block for committing the abominations above.

Unfortunately, there will always be an amount of manual intervention at the final edit of a book to correct these type of problems.

Please also have a look at Layout guidelines not exactly a multiple of \baselineskip

  • So there is no actual solution, right? However, people do typeset books with LaTeX and they do get good results. Rewriting is OK when you're the author, but not when you're editing a collection of texts. I once had a paragraph that ended on the other page with just three characters: “Di.” I tried everything, even setting \looseness—which didn't work. In the end, I had to stick with my rubber length values. There must be a set of trump cards typographers using LaTeX have.
    – rberaldo
    May 4, 2011 at 17:40
  • 1
    @rberaldo Yes you can have pages for which there is no mathematical solution, even if you add rubber lengths between paragraphs. Just try this; write a paragraph that justs fill the page, then add one word! In your case I would say though it is the best solution as you have a lot of dialogues and hence a lot of parskips so the adjustments become imperceptible at first glance.
    – yannisl
    May 4, 2011 at 18:12

I'm not entirely sure what “pagination” means here. But to encourage page-breaks between paragraphs (instead of, well, lines), and to retain vertical harmony (which isn't grid, per se), one could try:

\baselineskip=13pt % or whatever
\lineskip=13pt % stretchability removed
\raggedbottom % lest one gets bad vboxes
\interlinepenalty=1000 % discourage pagebreak between lines
\parskip=0pt % to retain harmony
  • 2
    According to New Hart's Rules, pagination refers to both the choosing of places where the text is divided between pages and the grouping of text into pages that results. May 4, 2011 at 11:16
  • @Charles, thank you for the definition. It's exactly what I mean. @morbusg your solution is interesting, however, I prefer keeping a rubber length between paragraphs to having ragged bottoms.
    – rberaldo
    May 4, 2011 at 17:10
  • @rberaldo: well, you lose vertical harmony then.
    – morbusg
    May 4, 2011 at 17:14

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