A white paper is a report that provides information about an issue. White papers are powerful marketing tools. Many times, an expert in their field is asked to write a paper to advocate for a certain product or service. If you've been asked to write one for a product or service, then we hope these seven tips for writing white papers will help.
You need to understand your audience. Your writing will be quite different if you're appealing to a business analyst or someone buying a new tablet. This will give you an idea of how much explanation will be needed about certain terms, what issues are the most important, or how technical your writing should be.
Your style of writing should be formal. The tone of the paper is to present the reader with a solution for his problem and, as such, should be taken seriously. Adopt a professional tone. Avoid contractions. And write in a manner that you'd find acceptable to present to, say, the CEO of a major corporation.
Make your white paper visually appealing with features like diagrams, charts, graphs, examples, case studies, and tables. These will help maintain the reader's interest, as long as they aren't overly complex and they don't overwhelm.
If you're seeking support for your claims, then cite a third-party source of information. This is even better than customer testimonials. A good supporting fact or two can add validity to your claims.
At the end of the paper, include a reference list. Also, be sure to include the information of any hyperlinked sources for someone who may decide to print out your paper.
Make sure the beginning and the end of the white paper state the problem and summarize the solution. If readers can't hone in on exactly what you're trying to say, then your white paper will lose its strength. A smart summary can drive your point home and remind the reader why they should take an interest in your product or service.
Proofread your paper carefully and remember that some typos create other words, so spell check won't catch them all. Also, some words sound the same but are spelled differently, so watch for that too. It would be a good idea to have someone proof for you before you submit the report.
Read other white papers online. Just search "white paper" and you will see many to choose from. You need to be aware that some are in PDF format, so you could search for that as well. Pick one to read and see what you like and don't like about it. Then apply that information to your writing.
With these tips in mind, you might be rubbing your hands together and gearing up to start sharing your knowledge. In terms of how to write an outline for a white paper, here are the five key sections to include. This format will help you mold your knowledge into a cohesive white paper:
Executive Summary - This is a brief summary of what your white paper is about. It shouldn't exceed 200 words.
Introduction - This is where people will be first introduced to your product, service, or idea. It's also the place to tease what's to come in the white paper.
Challenge - Here, you'll describe what your product, service, or idea will help others overcome.
Body - This is the meat of your white paper. This is where you'll detail all the aspects of your topic. Include charts, graphs, and other visuals to illustrate your main ideas.
Conclusion - Now, it's time to summarize your main points again. After you've provided another summary, be sure to include a call to action. This can be as simple as, "Call us today at 1-800-HELP-ME," or something a little more emotive like, "If you'd like to start reshaping your life for the better, enroll in our free online course today."
A good white paper can be anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words. Remember, it's an in-depth dive into a product, service, or proposal. As such, there's no room for "fluffy" information. Rather, you must cover every facet and include plenty of persuasive visuals.
For more information on how to write with clarity and precision, allow these 10 Tips for Writing Clear, Concise Sentences to help you create the most authoritative white paper you possibly can.