Mastering Line And Page Breaks In Latex For Optimal Typesetting

Preventing Unwanted Page Breaks

Using \\* to Prevent Page Breaks After Headings

The \\* command allows you to prevent a page break after a heading or subheading. This helps keep headings at the top of pages and prevents orphaned subheadings at the bottom of pages. To use it, simply add \\* after the heading, like this:


Text starts right away on the same page as the heading.

\\* works by adjusting the penalty for allowing a page break, making it very unlikely after the command.

Adjusting Penalties to Improve Paragraph Flow

LaTeX uses a penalty system to decide optimal places to break paragraphs across pages. By adjusting these penalties, you can guide LaTeX's page breaking algorithm. Some key parameters:

  • \widowpenalty - Penalty applied when the last line of a paragraph appears alone at the top of a page.
  • \clubpenalty - Penalty when the first line of a paragraph appears alone at the bottom of a page.
  • \brokenpenalty - Penalty applied after a column break.

Increasing these penalties reduces the chance of widows, orphans, and broken paragraphs across pages. For example:


You can even set these lengths locally in a paragraph to prevent breaks only in specific sensitive areas.

Forcing Text to Stay Together with samepage Environment

The samepage environment prevents a paragraph of text from being broken across page boundaries. This ensures that headings, figures, captions, and other elements stay in place:

Figure 1: Results \\
...figure contents...
\caption{Our key results}  

By keeping the figure, caption, and other text together, this improves readability and association between related elements.

Encouraging Page Breaks

Inserting Manual Page Breaks with \newpage

You can insert a page break anywhere with the \newpage command:



\subsection{Our Approach}  

This forces a break before the subsection heading, ensuring it starts at the top of a new page. \newpage is useful when you want to isolate a logical section on its own page or meet precise formatting needs.

Allowing Widows and Orphans with \widowpenalty and \clubpenalty

While widows and orphans are generally discouraged, sometimes allowing them improves overall paragraph flow and consistency of section lengths.

You can explicitly reduce penalties to allow more flexibility:


Use these tweaks judiciously based on the visual balance of paragraphs on pages. Allowing more variation can prevent more awkward breaks later or avoid short pages.

Customizing Page Dimensions

Setting Paper Size, Margins and Text Block with Geometry Package

The geometry package provides an easy way to customize page layout:


Some key options:

  • letterpaper or a5paper - Paper size
  • margin=1in - Sets margins
  • heightrounded - Integer number of lines per page

Changing paper size and margins impacts where page breaks occur, allowing you to tune section lengths.

Changing \textheight and \textwidth

To manually configure page parameters:


This directly sets the height and width of the body text block. Note these lengths interact - adjusting one impacts where breaks occur with the other length fixed.

Balancing Columns Across Pages

Using \columnbreak to Balance Column Height

In multicolumn environments, LaTeX balances columns based on standard paragraph breaks.

Insert \columnbreak manually to even out columns:




More text...  


Place \columnbreak at logical breaking points between paragraphs near the middle of columns.

Adjusting Columns with Multicol Package

The multicol package has options for handling columns:

  • balance - Balances columns on last page as well
  • columnsbalanced - Equal column lengths

For example:


Review the package documentation for controlling column pagination in detail.

Optimizing Figure and Table Placement

Keeping Figures and Tables in Place with [H]

Figures and tables may shift around during pagination. The [H] placement specifier forces them to stay in place:


This prevents page breaks inside the figure or table environment.

Note that [H] may cause increased bad breaks in paragraph text if the element doesn't naturally fit on the page.

Forcing Placement with \afterpage Command

To move a float element like a figure/table to the next page:

..image and caption..

\afterpage ensures the element doesn't appear until the subsequent page break. Useful for handling full-width figures that need an entire page.

Troubleshooting Issues

Debugging with \tracingpages=1

To understand how LaTeX handles breaks across pages, enable debugging:


This prints decisions related to penalties, floats, and fill glue when building each page in the log file. Useful for diagnosing issues.

Understanding the Page Building Process

Key steps in LaTeX placing content across pages:

  1. Float elements like figures are placed based on space
  2. Paragraphs broken across pages based on penalty parameters
  3. Glue stretch added to avoid short pages from gaps
  4. Unavoidable issues trigger bad breaks as last resort

Review the log with \tracingpages=1 to analyze this decision sequence for a given document's page breaking behavior.


Key Takeaways for Controlling Breaks

  • Use manual breaks, samepage, and penalties to guide paragraph flow
  • Set appropriate widow/club/column penalties for context
  • ConsiderGeometry and text block size changes for long documents
  • Leverage column breaking packages/commands for balance
  • Force figures/tables with [H] and \afterpage when needed

Additional Tips for Fine-Tuning

Some final recommendations:

  • Review draft logs with \tracingpages=1
  • Balance section lengths based on logical organization
  • Watch for image/table spacing issues near breaks
  • Set sloppy bottom margins temporarily as needed

Careful tuning of breaks improves reader flow through documents of every length. Follow these best practices for professional, publication-quality typesetting with LaTeX line and page parameters.

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