In multi-column page layouts, tombstoning occurs when two or more headlines or subheads appear horizontally adjacent to each other on the same line. Designers consider tombstoning undesirable. The term tombstoning comes from the side-by-side arrangement of tombstones in a cemetery. It may also be called butting heads, a play on the meaning of heads in typography and layout.
- Tombstoning creates an artificial symmetry that may not be present in the rest of the document, throwing off the visual balance.
- Tombstoning can confuse readers who may read the two heads as one long headline.
In the accompanying sidebar image, "Dead Bugs Drink Wine" may be a headline that grabs attention but it's not intentional. Those are two separate headlines that have fallen victim to tombstoning. Slight editing of the paragraph spacing, line endings, and even the alley space between columns could alleviate the problem.