Online groups, spring 2012

'Intentionally blank'

In the past, service manuals sometimes contained the phrase, "This page is intentionally blank". Is the phrase used now?

Some members think that the phrase has no use. If the page has numbers, then the phrase does not supply useful information to the reader. Also, if a page has the phrase, then the page is not blank.

In highly regulated documents, the use of 'intentionally blank' is usual and important. If a reader sees a blank page at the end of a section, possibly the reader will ask, "Is there some missing information?" The phrase is used in military publications.

One member is the manager of operation support for an airline. She explained that in the airline industry, 'intentionally blank' pages are used for operations manuals as standard practice.

In British Standards, the phrase is used if there is a blank page between the Foreword and the Scope, or if there is a blank page at the end of the document before the back cover. The phrase is applicable to the primary text. Because the phrase is in the footer, there is no inconsistency.

For loose-leaf documents, a reader will want to know if a new replacement page is correct. In this situation, a page date is probably also necessary.

Members suggested these alternatives to the phrase, "This page is intentionally blank":

Programming skills of technical communicators

A software company wanted a technical communicator to create technical documents for its software developers. One member attended a job interview. However, he did not get the job because he did not know how to write computer code. The member thinks that knowledge of programming is necessary for some jobs, but not for all jobs. What do other members think?

One member works for a software company. He does not need to understand the concepts of programming to write the documentation, but his knowledge of programming helps when he talks to software developers.

Another member wrote, "An author should be able to read and understand the language used when necessary in the functional/system specifications but they'd always have the engineers to refer back to anyway."

Warnings, cautions, and notes

In one company that produces telecommunications equipment, a member is reviewing the technical documentation. The company's employees go to a customer and install the equipment. Primarily, the documentation is for the company's employees.

Much of the member's work is to ask questions instead of making changes. She gave these examples:

In the documentation, the words and the format of warnings for electrical installations are not consistent. She wanted to make sure that the usual terms are as follows:

Sometimes, the term 'danger' is used, specially in the US. Sometimes, the difference between 'danger' and 'warning' is not clear.

One member recommended Safety instructions and warning messages in technical documentation by Lothar Franke and Mats Frendahl, MCSS (Marketing and Consulting Services Scandinavia), Sweden (www.mcss.se/pld/), ISBN 978-91-976659-9-5. For a review of the book, see InfoPlus+, November 2010.

Some related standards are as follows:

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