What's the point of pages in a booklet that say "This page intentionally left blank"? I’ve seen this so many times in so many different publications, and it has always irked me. Always.

Just thinking about it, right now, I’m feeling irked.

A quick Google search came up with this, which I have deemed as the best answer to my question (via Calvin Sun / TechRepublic.com):
This sentence, when I first saw it in an IBM manual, totally confused me. “What is the point,” I asked myself, “of having this sentence? Of course I can see that the page is blank. What’s more, doesn’t the sentence actually contradict itself, because the page really ISN’T blank anymore?”
Then I thought about it some more, and realized that they had a reason for printing that message: they didn’t want people to think they had “messed up” by forgetting to print material on that page. The material from the previous page DID really end on that page, and the material on the following page DOES really start there. In other words, they were saying, “It’s OK, we know what we’re doing, and we didn’t make a mistake here.”
His point is all about credibility: if people who read your documents see a blank page, they will immediately think “Wow, this company doesn’t even edit their documents to make sure they don’t have blank pages,” or “I hope they didn’t forget to print something and I’m not missing part of the instructions!” Calvin’s point makes sense for including the sentence “This page intentionally left blank.” But what about the fact that they’re including a blank page in the first place?

When someone gives a speech, or when you see a public speaker, he or she might pause every now and then in order to put emphasis on certain phrases or drive home a point. But you never hear, during that pause, a speaker say “This pause is intentionally left silent.” Do people think the speech is over, or the speaker screwed up if he or she pauses for a moment? Probably not, unless he’s a terrible speaker.

You might think that paragraph is inconsistent with my argument; actually, it helps prove my point. Public speakers can pause like this to add effect because they likely have a meaningful message to relay and because they’re controlling the experience. Novelists and writers have a meaningful message to relay, too, but they don’t have as much control over the experience. Once those words are down on paper, it’s up to the reader how slowly or quickly they want the experience of reading them to last, and no amount of blank pages in between is going to make a significant difference. The only thing pages that are “intentionally left blank” will do is confuse and frustrate the reader.

The worst of it is that the places you see this type of thing are standardized tests, operations manuals, technical documents, etc. This is exactly the place where pages like this are most unnecessary. Are you skipping to the next topic? Fine. Start a new page, slap on a large header, and people will get that we’re moving forward. We’ve got a lot of stupid people in this world, to be sure. But I refuse to believe that they’re so stupid as to not understand something as simple as this.

So be a selfish hippie : stop wasting paper, stop wasting my time and stop wasting your money. Don’t print extra blank pages with “This page intentionally left blank” on them. If you don’t, you’re going to start finding your publications and manuals in garbage cans with the handwritten phrase “This bunch of papers intentionally left where it belongs.”
Related Articles

Related Article Widget by Hoctro
Enjoyed the blog?
Get email updates:
Grab the feed:


Subscribe  RSS:   E-mail:  

Blogger Templates by Blog Forum