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What is a White Paper? The Basics

Updated: Jan 28

This is a big (and popular) topic. Sometimes called "the king of copy" or "the king of content," the white paper may have a mysterious name but it's really quite easy to understand the basics of this form.




Fundamentally, a white paper is an informational report. It can vary quite significantly in length, and different professionals can have quite different ideas about what is ideal. The length will also depend on the scope of the topic.


The tone of a white paper is eminently professional, formal, and informational. The word informational is key. The reader must perceive from the get-go that it is worth their while to read the paper, which may be quite lengthy.


Types of White Papers

There are three general types of white paper: problem/solution, backgrounder, and numbered list. As the problem/solution approach tends to be the most prevalent type of white paper, that is the one we will focus on here.


What is the Purpose of a White Paper?

White papers are primarily written for business-to-business (B2B) communication. A problem/solution white paper's purpose is to address a problem the audience has and presents a solution, deftly implying throughout that the writer's client's company provides the best or only solution that will work for them.


White papers are especially prevalent in the tech and financial industries, where they can be used to announce and promote new products. As a writer, look for white paper gigs that only require you to write the copy. After that, the copy will be passed on to a graphic designer to design the document. This is because white papers are often graphic-rich and visually appealing.


White papers follow a specific type of format. A common way of organizing a white paper is to include the following elements:


· Cover sheet with title and date

· Table of Contents

· Executive Summary

· Introduction

· Features and Benefits section

· Conclusion


I hope you've found this explanation of white paper basics useful. Please comment and let me know if you did!

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