White Paper Basics: What Makes This Business Document Well-Written and Effective?


Government reports served as the first white papers, and the best-known of the early examples took on a tough task: helping people understand the intentions of the British government. Since that 1922 document, the white paper has made a name for itself as the ambassador for complex ideas .

In business, a white paper can share a solution to a problem, explain a service offering or new technology, or be an authoritative source. In any case, a well-written white paper is a valuable resource. Here's what makes a good white paper:

  • Keep it short. Get the most important information in, but don't burden readers with too much detail. The point is to illuminate, not complicate. Make sure information is laid out in a linear, logical way, with a title that lets readers know what they're getting.
  • Be professional but accessible. White papers aren't academic papers, which are widely considered impenetrable where general audiences are concerned. But they're not advertisements, either. Instead of pitching, lay out facts.
  • Persuade.  Provide background evidence , trials, and other data to show that the position in the white paper is the best position for the issues at hand. Know that people may use your white paper to advocate for changes in policy and other professional action, and give them the information they need to make their argument.
  • Stay unbiased. Readers don't regard advertisements as authoritative, and if your white papers are perceived as marketing tools rather than references, your reputation could suffer. But if you can be candid about the ins and outs of the problem and acknowledge the things that may run counter to your own interests, you'll develop reader trust. The paper should help the reader reach the conclusions that will serve them best.
  • Cover a range of applications, not just a single case study. White papers shouldn't provide a solution only for a restricted set of circumstances.

A good white paper can be a powerful tool to garner reputation and respect in your field. Visit Hurley Write, Inc. for more white paper writing tips, and contact us today to learn more about effective writing strategies for your business.

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