If you look at published books and journals that have blank pages, you'll find some with printed statements:

This page intentionally left blank.

Why is there no flected verb ("is"):

This page is intentionally left blank.

There is some information on wikipedia, but no description of why the verb is missing.

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It's common to heavily abbreviate signs and notes.

This can allow some amusing misreadings. E.g:

Stop Police

Stop the police from doing what?

Stop Immigration Control

Yes, I too agree with more open borders.

Slow Children

It's a bit mean to comment on their learning problems in a road sign.

But such misreadings are deliberate humour - it's clear what they really mean.

And while some people do argue that such notes and signs are ungrammatical, truly they're using a different grammar than full sentences. We don't even notice that a shop wouldn't be using full sentences in having a sign saying "Books" or "Fish & Chips" rather than "This premises is a shop that sells books" and "This premises is a shop that sells fish & chips".

Indeed, which seems the stranger:

No milk please

We do not require any milk today, please.

The former is a common enough notice to see near a door in places that have daily milk deliveries, the latter seems fussy at best.

And so it is here. The appropriate sentence would be either "This page is intentionally left blank." or "This page is to be intentionally left blank." (Depending on whether in making it a full sentence we make it a description or an instruction; as a note it serves as both). As a note though, the omission is perfectly normal.

The even more concise "Blank Page" is also commonly found.

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  • Don't forget "this page was intentionally left blank". – Sildoreth Jun 7 '13 at 14:37
  • @Sildoreth indeed, will be would also be technically correct - referring to the end result - as would several other variants. – Jon Hanna Jun 7 '13 at 14:40
  • Humor: That sentence lies :-). – Kedar Mhaswade Dec 5 '16 at 17:25

The phenomenon of labels is dealt with in a famous paper by Jerry Sadock:

"Read at Your Own Risk: Syntactic and Semantic Horrors You Can Find in Your Medicine Chest", Papers from the Tenth Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society: 599-607, 1975.

In it he describes the rules that apply to coreference, for instance. Reference is Zero for anything to which the label is attached, which leads to contrasts like

  • Close Before Turning Dryer On (sign on a laundromat dryer door)
  • Close Door Before Turning On (sign on a laundromat dryer, next to the door)

The deletion of predictable pronouns, articles, auxiliaries, complementizers, and other grammatical particles in the interests of fewer (thus larger, and metaphorically louder) words is a normal occurrence in making signs. Every word must count, and little words count for nothing since they have no meaning. Context, as on the dryer door, is everything.

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  • And then there's the old "Close cover before striking" on matchbooks. (Is it still there?) – rhetorician Jun 7 '13 at 17:56
  • But on the cover, it's "Close before striking match". – John Lawler Jun 7 '13 at 20:29
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    Local taxis have a driver safety feature: an alarm light on the trunk lid, activated by a hidden switch. The caption: "If flashing, call 911!" – DJohnM Jun 8 '13 at 0:52
  • They're everywhere! – John Lawler Jun 8 '13 at 0:53
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    In the San Francisco Bay area there are a large number of painted signs by storm sewers that originally read: "No Dumping Flows to Bay" I did not like these signs and complained because the signs declarative meaning (that nothing dumped there would flow into the bay) was the opposite of what the writer attempted to convey in this telegraphic style. A few years later the signs were re-stenciled to read the slightly improved: "No Dumping! Flows to Bay" – Jim Jul 14 '16 at 4:36

'Is' implies some degree of current tense, since it is a third-person present form of 'be'. Technically, saying the page 'is' intentionally blank softly implies that something might happen to change its state. "He is President." "He is alive." "This is my dog." "The test is today." are all basic examples of this. Sooner or later, they will all stop being true, due to passage of time.

It is fine to say the "This page intentionally left blank." because once it is printed, there is no hope of it changing on its own. (Unless you scribble in it, but that's irrelevant.)

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    I think you'll find that there's never much hope of a page changing on its own. Then again, I suppose that could explain the typos and awkward phrasings that mysteriously appear in a piece of writing one is redrafting after a break. – Jon Hanna Jun 7 '13 at 13:23

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