How Textpattern Handles Widowed Words in Article Titles


Web design trends come and go as technology and user habits evolve. I remember the advent of WAP in the 90s, and some organisations scrambled to create WAP-friendly websites. Later came the ‘m-dot’ websites where an entirely new website was delivered over a domain with mobile-friendly features. There was a brief period of time when some organisations insisted on Apple device-specific markup. One organisation might have any or all of these websites to maintain:

…and so forth. Many search engines will see these domains as entirely different entities, which has a direct correlation on search result visibility. Combine this with the extra effort required to maintain different versions of the same website, it’s not really surprising that human interaction and web technologies ended up creating a concept called responsive design. The gist of this responsive design idea is that a page can be displayed on different types of screen, from mobile device to a 4K monitor and beyond.

The origins of Textpattern CMS pre-date the responsive design era by a number of years. In more recent times, a lot of work has been invested in bringing it more up-to-date with modern web aesthetics. One of the throwbacks to this previous generation that is included in Textpattern is the ability to restrict or remove widowed words at the end of a sentence. A widowed word is a single word at the end of sentence and is considered to be bad form in some page layout and typography schools of thought. Here’s an example:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing

The way Textpattern handles widowed words is pretty straightforward and it depends on how the site administrator wants to deal with the situation. In the Textpattern configuration options, there is an option to prevent widowed words in article titles. Go to Admin -> Preferences -> Advanced and you’ll find the option under the Publish section heading. Setting the option to ‘Yes’ will avoid the situation above where a lone word is on a new line.

This widowed word prevention is accomplished by inserting a non-breaking space character ( ) between the last two words of the article title. As the name implies, this splits the two words with a space that will not break the line, so the example above will end up looking like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur
adipiscing elit.

With responsive design, widowed words are arguably becoming less of an issue overall, or perhaps they’re just noticed less by site users. If you have a responsive site design, you should ensure you don’t have the “Prevent widowed words in article titles?” option checked in your administration options. Equally, if you’re theming your Textpattern site and wondered where the extra   comes from, here’s your answer.

Related to responsive design, one of my upcoming series of articles will cover the process of making a new theme using Zurb Foundation as the framework.

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Author Spotlight

Pete Cooper

Pete Cooper has been using Textpattern since 2005. Textpattern is his preferred CMS weapon of choice. Its logical and flexible approach to content management makes Pete happy, as does its lightweight core and helpful user community. Pete's website - - runs on top of Textpattern and chronicles his day-to-day experiences from his home near the Atlantic in north Cornwall, United Kingdom.

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