Skip to content

How to get great reviews for your white paper

Every white paper gets reviews, often by numerous people.

But these reviews aren’t always helpful.

To gain an effective review, a white paper writer or sponsor sometimes needs to take reviewers by the hand and give them a little guidance.

This article includes five tips, plus a reviewer’s checklist you can download and circulate to your reviewers with your next white paper.

Tip #1: Help reviewers focus on a high level

First of all, you must help your reviewers to think on a strategic level about the white paper they’re reviewing.

Ideally, a reviewer will check how closely a white paper matches the company’s vision and voice, and gauge how well it will achieve its purpose.

If a reviewer can do that, they’re well on the path to providing a helpful review.

Tip #2: Remind them of the purpose

During the planning process, you already defined the business goals for the white paper, right?

Make sure to remind your reviewers of those goals when they start their review.

I do this is by showing the purpose(s) on the first page of any white paper draft I circulate for comments.

For example, right below the draft title of the white paper, I include a line like this:

Purposes: To generate leads, and to raise the visibility of the company

This helps orient every reviewer at the start of their read-through, and refresh their minds about what you’re all trying to achieve.  

Tip #3: Remind them of the audience

For the same reason, I remind reviewers of the audience we’re aiming at with a white paper.

And I show that right on the first page as well:

Audience(s): Design team leaders in Tier 1 automotive manufacturers with authority to specify third-party electrical parts  

These two reminders help your reviewers stay on track with their comments.

Then, if a reviewer makes some comment that you think misses the mark for the target audience, you can politely ignore that comment.

Download our FREE checklist
with 18 must-do promotions
for your white paper.

Tip #4: Forget the rules of composition they learned in Grade 3

  • “Never start a sentence with And or But!”
  • “Always type two spaces after a period.”
  • “Never end a sentence with a preposition.”

Egads! It might be 50 years since an executive heard these rules from Miss Smidgeon back in Grade 3. But they’re still trotting out those rules as iron-clad absolutes that everyone must follow.

The truth is, many of those “rules” are by now irrelevant.

For example, in conversational writing it’s fine to start a sentence with “And” or “But.” And I do it all the time.

As for spaces after periods, typesetting software like InDesign eats the extra space. It also adds more spaces for padding to justify a column. So it doesn’t matter how many spaces you type after a period: They won’t show up in the final white paper.

And as for ending sentences with prepositions, some linguists believe this rule originated with writer John Dryden in the 1600s. Isn’t it time for an update?

Following this convention leads to some unseemly sentences, like this grammatical joke attributed to Winston Churchill in 1942:

This is the type of impertinence
up with which I will not put!

You want your reviewers to focus on more strategic matters than singling out a preposition at the end of a sentence.

And if you’re trying to write in a conversational style, you don’t want to sound stilted and unnatural.

Sometimes it’s preferable to break an old-fashioned rule of grammar rather than sound too formal.

Businessman doing a white paper review in hard copy and on screen - That White Paper Guy

Tip #5: List all the key items you want your reviewers to check

So you don’t need reviewers for a spelling or grammar check. Your software and the lower-level reviewers can take care of all that.

But there are 3 key things you want your reviewers to pay attention to: facts, logic and details.

Facts: You want every fact and reference to be accurate and precise. When a reviewer helps with that, they really earn their salt.

Logic: Pointing out a hole in an argument proves that a reviewer is really paying attention. And if they offer a way to fill in the hole, give them a gold star!

Details: Do readers really need to know about that? There’s a natural tendency to expand every draft with more details. So it’s usually great when a reviewer tells you, “We don’t need to get into that here.”

Get your reviewer’s checklist

To help get better reviews, click here to download a handy reviewer’s checklist you can circulate with your white paper drafts.

Do you have any tips on how to properly manager reviewers? Please leave your comments below.

Want to hear whenever there’s a fresh article on this site? Subscribe here to stay in the know on long-form content. From time to time, we’ll also send you word about some great new resource or training. And you can unsubscribe any time.  

About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

If you liked this post...

White Paper World llogo new Oct 2023

White Paper World 40: April 25, 2024

Shun the TIONs: Part deux Guest tip: Excise the IZEs! Mini-review: The Elements of Technical...
placard reading Excise the IZEs!

Guest tip: Excise the IZEs!

The tendency to add IZE to nouns is an old story in English. The practice...
2 bowls of rice to show short verb + tion = puffed-up noun

Quick tip: Shun the TIONs!

2.5 minute read. 3.5 minute listen.  I see them all across the nation,...

Leave a Comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.