How to Write a White Paper That Wows: 5 Tips for Success

You can learn how to write a white paper that holds a reader’s attention. (Photo illustration)

White papers should be a part of your marketing strategy because they provide a wealth of information to customers about your product or service.

However, the same reason white papers are effective is why they can be daunting to write—they are long and extensive.

Don’t let this deter you from writing your white paper, though. There is a formula to follow, and you can simply fill in your product or service’s details.

Here are five tips and tricks on how to write a white paper that wows your audience.

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What Is a White Paper?

Before we dive into the tips for how to write a white paper, let’s take a look at what a white paper is exactly and why you should write one.

A white paper is an informational document written by businesses or nonprofit organizations to promote the features of a product or service they plan to offer. It is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report.

You should write a white paper when you are about to launch a new product or service or want to highlight and go more in-depth about something you currently sell. This is your opportunity to provide customers, prospects, potential investors, government agencies, and anyone else with comprehensive evidence of your product or service’s competence.

Now let’s review the tips on how to write a white paper that wows.

1. Have a Topic and a Target Audience

The first step to writing a white paper is to choose your topic.

Think about it from your reader’s point of view, not yours:

  • Is there an essential aspect of your industry that people should know about but that they currently have little information about?
  • What can you write about that might be of interest to your industry peers?
  • Have you or your team accomplished anything of interest that might be replicable?

Next, you’ll need to define the specific people you want to market your white paper to—this is your target audience.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure your white paper gets in front of the right eyes:

  • For whom is your white paper intended?
  • What questions or problems can you help them answer?
  • What helpful information can you provide?
  • What action do you want them to take?

Don’t write your white paper to appeal to the whole world. Instead, select an appropriate target audience—those most likely to buy your product or service. Research what they want to know and then write for them.

Don’t Miss: 5 Costly Mistakes in Business Writing

Preview image of the white paper template, which you can download for free

Download Our FREE White Paper Template

This is a Microsoft Word document that we started for you with a clean, minimal design. Just add your text in the appropriate places. Instantly create a better white paper.

2. Develop a Detailed Outline

White papers aren’t easy or quick to write, so anything that would save you some time or headaches is welcome. One such time-saver is to make a detailed outline of your white paper.

White papers should generally be 2,500 words or more. You don’t want to be haphazardly writing thousands of words with no plan or end goal in mind.

An outline will allow you to plan out what you want to say, when to say it, and how much you want to say about it.

Include as much detail as possible, such as:

  • Title ideas
  • What research you want to highlight in each paragraph
  • Images, charts, and graphs to support your writing
  • Ideas for your introduction and conclusion or summary
  • The order in which everything should be presented
  • Footnotes, sources, bibliography

A detailed outline should give you an idea about how long your white paper will be. You can also change your outline later if you feel something is missing or unnecessary.

Having a detailed outline makes the white paper writing process easier because all you need to do is fill in the information.

Here is a sample B2B white paper outline:

White Paper Outline

  • Best for: B2B lead generation or closing sales
  • Tone: formal yet approachable; authoritative and educational; trusted advisor
  • Do NOT Include: humor, hype, hard sells, direct attacks on competitors
  • Length: 5-12 pages is the average size of a white paper

1. Cover/Title:

  1. Make your title short, strong, and to the point.
  2. Keep your target audience in mind.
  3. Create curiosity.
  4. Optional: Include the words “white paper” on the cover.

2. Introduction:

  1. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes: “What’s in it for me?”
  2. Set up the problem, need, or pain point with an intriguing statement.
  3. Support it with some real-world data.
  4. Explain the objective of the white paper.

3. Background/Problem:

  1. Present a high-level view of current issues and trends.
  2. Explain the problem, challenge, or need in more detail.
  3. Provide relevant data and research to support your points: real value.
  4. Why must this problem be solved? What benefits would result from solving it?
  5. Include additional data and insights as needed. Do not go overboard with technical details, though, or you will lose the reader’s interest.
  6. If helpful, briefly mention existing solutions and why they might fall short.

4. Overview of Solution:

  1. Introduce the solution. Clearly define it. Avoid hype.
  2. Mention relevant technologies.
  3. Explain the key business benefits (not features).
  4. What does this solution offer that others don’t?

5. Details of Solution:

  1. How does the solution work exactly?
  2. When and how should it be used?
  3. Describe each aspect of the solution in detail.
  4. Justify each part of the solution with business benefits and features.
  5. Incorporate visual aids such as tables, charts, and graphs.

6. Benefits/Success:

  1. What is the expected return on investment?
  2. Provide relevant case studies/success stories.

7. Conclusion:

  1. Reiterate your objectives.
  2. Summarize the key takeaways.
  3. Provide next steps/call to action (CTA).

8. Callouts/Sidebars:

  1. Pull out great benefits-driven quotes to help break up the text.
  2. Consider incorporating a box listing some definitions of key terms used in the white paper.

9. References/Additional Resources:

  1. List your sources.
  2. The sources should be credible and recent.
  3. Consider listing additional resources for further reading. This is a good place to link to related white papers you have published.

10. About:

  1. Include a brief description of your organization.
  2. Provide brief bios of each contributor to the white paper.
  3. Be sure to include contact information.

11. Back Page:

  1. Optional: Give one final CTA.
  2. Include any necessary legal boilerplate.
  3. Don’t forget the copyright information (e.g., © 2022 Company XYZ).

Once you’ve written your white paper, you’ll want to ensure it’s free of embarrassing errors so nothing stands in the way of your success.

The team at Super Copy Editors knows precisely what to look for to make yours successful. Learn more about our white paper proofreading and copy editing services.

Photo of a person's hands on a laptop keyboard.
Research is crucial before you write a white paper. (Photo: Pexels)

3. Do Your Research

An essential aspect of how to write a white paper is ensuring you’re presenting factual information.

Extensive research gives credibility to your white paper and your product or service. It’s this research aspect that can often be the most time-consuming part of a white paper.

Here are some sources to use in your research:

  • Credible Sources: Keep a record of your sources. Use their quotes directly in the content, in your references section at the end of the white paper, or as a footnote.
  • Journals, Other White Papers, or Reports: Cite other works on the same or similar topic as your white paper.
  • Conduct Interviews: Interviewing subject-matter experts to get information and quotes is a fantastic way to get research for your white paper. Not only will these people give you direct input, but they can also point you in the right direction for other helpful materials.

After conducting your research, you will need to fact-check everything. People expect factual information from white papers, so it’s always a good idea to fact-check all of your sources and the information they gave you.

4. Write Your White Paper

Now it’s time to put pen to paper, so to speak.

The body of your white paper must incorporate many aspects. A well-written white paper should have the following:

  • An Attention-Grabbing Title: Your white paper needs a title that will pull readers in to read more. Make it welcoming, make it provoke curiosity, and make it concise.
  • An Enticing Introduction: Keep readers interested by enticing them to keep going. Usually, a summary of what you are about to write works well. Even casual readers will take something away from this overview.
  • Subheadings to Break It Up: Each section of your white paper should lead with an eye-catching subheading.
  • Well-Researched Material: You’ll need data to back up your claims. A white paper’s purpose is to be informative, valuable, and supported with proof. Use verified facts, quotes, and statistics.
  • Value in Every Paragraph: White papers are informational and value-driven, so make sure every paragraph provides something useful. Stick to the point.

These are the keys to how to write a white paper that provides value and keeps your reader interested.

This is a graphic titled "White Paper Checklist," and the list is: 1) I chose an interesting topic from the reader’s point of view (not mine). 2) Before I started writing, I had a specific target audience in mind. 3) I developed a detailed outline. 4) I spent the time to conduct extensive research to give credibility to my white paper. 5) I crafted a short, enticing title. 6) I used short paragraphs, subheads, and bulleted lists to help readers skim my white paper quickly. 7) I incorporated visual aids such as tables, charts, and graphs. 8) My white paper is informative, valuable, and supported with proof. 9) My tone is “trusted advisor,” and there is no hype or hard sell. 10) I included a solid call to action. 11) I fact-checked everything. and 12) I checked my spelling, grammar, tone, flow, and style. It’s perfect! - graphic by Super Copy Editors.

Don’t forget! Download “How to Write a White Paper That Wows: 5 Tips for Success” to keep it handy and take action on it. Click here to download it now.

5. Have It Proofread and Edited

Along with fact-checking your research, having your white paper proofread and edited is essential.

Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and sentences that just aren’t clear can reflect poorly on your company when the purpose of your white paper is exactly the opposite—to highlight your company and what you offer.

One thing you can’t do? Edit and proofread your white paper yourself. At the very least, have a coworker proofread your white paper for errors. However, a professional business proofreading service would be the best course of action with a document of this length and importance.

Over the past 12-plus years, Super Copy Editors has proofread and edited many white papers. Our team of experienced editors will thoroughly review your white paper with fresh eyes and a new perspective, putting the polishing touches on it so that it generates the most leads possible for your business. Get your white paper in the best shape possible with a quick proofreading quote now.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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