The companies responsible for this comment is applying it all wrong. They are applying a computer style onto something that requires a typographical style. They have the mindset that warnings are to be placed onto the same page, just like in a basic web page or online documentation.


What they should be doing in fact is to warn either beforehand that "the following X-number of pages are intentionally left blank" or afterwards "the preceding X-number of pages was intentionally left blank". These statements are more accurate.

The reason for this ubiquitous phrase (at least in the case of books) is due to a publishing secret:

When a book is being printed, it is naturally not printed on individual sheets. This would be much too time consuming. Instead very large sheets, often equivalent to the area of 8, 16, 32, or more individual sheets are used. (But note the multiple of 4's)

This large sheet is printed and then folded and then the edges are cut making the individual sheets. The folding of this large page also varies. The large sheet will contain continuous numbers, say from 17 to 32, but they won't be numerically ordered, left to right, top to bottom. Rather they will lay such that when folded and cut, then they are ordered.

All this must be worked out by the person doing layout if there are a limited number of pages with color. Then, for example, only one large sheet will be in color; the others black and white. That's why a book with just a couple of colored pages will have them all relatively near one another, possibly all at the center of the book. To put them on two separate large sheets would cost more.

Also, this means that a book will always have as many pages as a multiple of the large sheets. If the large sheet contains 16 pages each, then the book will have to be some multiple of 16. Then, there are almost always pages left blank. Hence, the message: "This page intentionally left blank" so that people don't feel gypped.

It's always a trade off : either too many pages (wasteful) or smaller large sheets (more expensive). C'est la vie.

I'm pretty sure that this originated on standardized tests, like the SAT, ACT, MCAT, and GRE.

The reason for this is that there are sections of the test that you can complete only one at a time, and you can't go to other sections until everyone is ready. Since the paper is so thin and flimsy, you can read the lettering on the other side.

The point being, once you got to the last page of the section, you could have read through the page to the next questions, getting an unfair start. The other side being blank helps prevent cheating. The instructions and questions begin on the page after.

Why announce it? Simple. Some people immediately assume that their test sheet is defective, and can complain that their score should be invalid. The disclaimer is there to avoid a simple mistake that could happen the first time. Of course, high school students take dozens of SATs and ACTs, so they don't even bother reading it now.

Books of musical notation are, so far as I can tell, the only books whose pages need to be turned in an expedient, rhythmical fashion. If you're sitting at a piano and trying desperately not to think about what it is you're playing and you weren't fortunate enough to grab someone to turn your pages for you, the last thing you need to worry about is that the page turn you're coming to is in the middle of a particularly difficult passage.

Rather than trying to grow a third arm from your abdomen, spontaneously developing your telekenetic powers or trying to flip the pages back with a sudden movement of your head, sheet music publishers have been thoughtful enough to space their staves in such a way as to place the page breaks in the most unobtrusive locations possible. The most extreme example of this is that occasionally a page needs to be left blank in order to make the music playable in a fluid manner. "This Page Intentionally Left Blank" is printed on the skipped pages so as not to cause a trainwreck.

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