Quick and Painless Widow Prevention

How many of you have ever heard of wid­ows? And no, I’m not talk­ing about women who out­live their husbands.

What I am actu­al­ly refer­ring to is a typo­graph­i­cal phe­nom­e­non: The dic­tio­nary ((The Amer­i­can Her­itage® Dic­tio­nary of the Eng­lish Lan­guage, Fourth Edi­tion Copy­right © 2007, 2000 by Houghton Mif­flin Com­pa­ny. Updat­ed in 2007. Pub­lished by Houghton Mif­flin Com­pa­ny. All rights reserved.)) defines a wid­ow as “A sin­gle, usu­al­ly short line of type, as one end­ing a para­graph, car­ried over to the top of the next page or col­umn” or “A short line at the bot­tom of a page, col­umn, or paragraph.”

If you’ve ever used Microsoft Word, you may have noticed that every so often, it may adjust a para­graph from one page to anoth­er or per­form some oth­er adjust­ment at page breaks while you’re typ­ing. Word is pro­grammed to help to pre­vent wid­owed text.

Most (all?) blog­ging soft­ware is at a dis­ad­van­tage here, requir­ing a cus­tom solution. 

You love your read­ers, though, and you want them to have the most typo­graph­i­cal­ly excel­lent expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble. I under­stand that. It’s why peo­ple like us use a Word­Press theme like The­sis.

Giv­en the awe­some com­mu­ni­ty which Word­Press and the blo­gos­phere in gen­er­al fos­ter, the work has already been done for us in the form of Widon’t, a Word­Press plu­g­in by Shawn Inman, cre­ator of the Best Damn Site Ana­lyt­ics Soft­ware out there.

Widon’t is a sim­ple lit­tle plu­g­in; sim­ply upload its si-widont.php file to your plu­g­ins direc­to­ry and acti­vate it from the Plu­g­ins panel.

Right away, your post’s titles will receive the Widon’t treat­ment, but what about your posts?

There are rea­sons why Widon’t does­n’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly scour your posts, adding non-break­ing spaces between the last two words of every ele­ment. Such nondis­crim­i­na­to­ry alter­ations could have all sorts of unfore­seen side effects.

And unfore­seen side effects can be very bad things.

Widon’t gets around this by pro­vid­ing a sim­ple con­trol pan­el at Plu­g­ins → Widon’t Options with­in which you can spec­i­fy the tags you would like Widon’t to search inside.

Your mileage may vary, but I’m rock­ing Widon’t with this com­bi­na­tion of tags: h3 h4 h5 h6 li p dt dd.

That cov­ers most of the block-lev­el tags, and I’m unde­cid­ed if it’d be worth it to include phrase tags such as strong or samp. The more I use Widon’t, the more I’ll under­stand what needs to be hap­pen­ing, and I’ll try to keep this post updat­ed with an opti­mal list of tags to include.

The more astute read­ers may have noticed I’m not includ­ed blockquote in the list of tags. The rea­son for this is that while blockquote is a block-lev­el ele­ment, to be valid there must be anoth­er block-lev­el ele­ment with­in it. Thus, my block quotes include p tags, and I’m already includ­ing para­graph tags in the Widon’t list.

I rec­om­mend Widon’t if you want to increase your site’s typo­graph­i­cal awe­some­ness a lev­el or two.

As a corol­lary to the mat­ter of pre­vent­ing wid­owed text, I high­ly encour­age you to take some time to research Web typog­ra­phy. Most of it isn’t ter­ri­bly com­plex, and there are a good many tips and tricks which can work on vir­tu­al­ly all sites out there.

The dif­fer­ence between an aver­age blog and a typo­graph­i­cal­ly-tuned blog is like that of night and day. Your time invest­ment in typog­ra­phy will be well worth it.


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Rick Beckman