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Quick tip: To find the gem, wash away the muck

A tiny piece of emerald on a miner's fingertip

One problem I often see in white papers is over-long quotes from sources. Lengthy quotes can easily slow down your narrative and distract from the point you’re trying to make. If you see a quote that runs two or three paragraphs long, you can be pretty sure the writer included too much. Your goal as…

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Quick tip: Don’t use numbers out of context

Man cooking up shoddy statistics on laptop

White papers need solid proof to make their case. So please don’t fabricate shoddy statistics out of thin air. If you try to make up a snappy-sounding statistic, you’re taking a huge risk. You’re gambling that: You can get away with deceiving prospects No one will question your sources or analysis No one will say…

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Quick tip: Don’t start your white paper like this

white paper writer clearing his throat before he gets down to saying something new

Too many white papers suffer from what I call “throat-clearing.” That’s when a paper begins by repeating something the audience already knows. Consider this example from a white paper from HP: Rapid innovations in Internet and mobile computing technology are drawing many communications, media, and entertainment (ME) companies to expand into profitable new markets to…

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Quick tip: Cook up your titles like lasagna

lasagna by DALL-E

A mouth-watering serving of lasagna contains three essential ingredients. And so does my favorite format for a white paper title. For lasagna, those three key parts are: Melted cheese topping that catches the eye. Rich sauce that forms the main body. Noodles that lay the foundation of the dish. Miss out on any one, and…

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Quick tip: Check quotes from your sources

business woman checking her quotes

When you quote someone, make sure to get their quote right. This is especially important if they’re an ongoing source you want to go back to again. Remember, most business people are not used to being quoted. They’re not spokespeople. They’re not celebrities. So they’re unsure about the process. To reassure a source, here are…

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Quick tip: Build your own list of sources

construction guy holding a clipboard

Here’s how to save time researching your next white paper. Build your own list of sources you trust, and go to them for insights. I’ve said this before: Don’t start with Google. Now I’m doubling down on that advice. Develop your own list of trusted sources. Don’t rely on Google to find them. This works especially…

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Quick tip: Do footnotes the Chicago way

do footnotes the Chicago way

So you’re writing a white paper with lots of sources. So you’re writing a white paper with lots of sources. Way to go on doing your research! Now you need footnotes (or endnotes) to cite those sources. But how do you format the pesky things? Just stick in URLs and call it done? Well, I’ve…

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Quick Tip: Using multiple calls-to-action

You’ve heard the classic advice: Use a single call-to-action. Make it crystal clear what an interested prospect should do. But what if you have multiple audiences for the same white paper? What if one call-to-action isn’t enough? There’s a simple way to handle that: Just specify a different call-to-action for each segment of the audience.…

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