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White Paper World 13: November 23, 2022

  • Fresh content: Tools of the trade, all in one place
  • Quick tip: Don’t cross the red line
  • Tools of the trade: Rate your headlines for originality and SEO
  • What I’m thankful for: Great books!
  • Just for fun: November book giveaway

hand tools on wooden table

Fresh content: Tools of the trade, all in one place

From time to time, I mention a cool tool that can really help you save time or create stronger white papers.

If you’ve seen every issue of White Paper World since last spring, you’ve heard of all these.

But if not, you have some catching up to do.

For your convenience, you can now find all of them on a new page here onsite: Tools of the Trade. It’s now in our side menu too, along with Quick Tips.

This way, if you spot a tool or tip you want to revisit, you can easily find it again.


the red line

Quick tip: Don’t cross the red line

Companies doing their first-ever white paper often suffer from what I call “The Kitchen Sink Syndrome.”

photo of old dirty sink with tip not to put into an ICO white paper

They tell me they want to generate leads.

But they’re also dying to tell the world about their brilliant new product.

And then they come up with a listicle or two.

And then they dump everything into one document.

And then it ends up as a mishmash with no clear narrative thread.


I tell my clients they will get far better results if they separate their content into two or three different documents:

  • To attract fresh prospects, use a problem-solution (chocolate)
  • To re-engage prospects in the middle of their customer journey, use a numbered list (strawberry)
  • To beat competitors in a product evaluation, or to support a new product launch, use a backgrounder (vanilla)

And here’s a simple way to say all that in shorthand.

Set a red line that a white paper must not cross

Politicians love to set “red lines.” Even when—as John McCain said—these seem to be written in invisible ink.

So here’s how you draw your red line for a white paper, based on the audience analysis you did before you started.

(You did an audience analysis, right?)

what readers need to know

It’s a simple box with one line through it, as shown above.

On top, you write: “What readers need to know.”

Below the line, you write: “What they don’t need to know.”

How to use your red line

Whenever you hit irrelevant material or a suggestion to go into a side issue, ask this question: “Do our readers need to know that?”

To push back some more, ask, “Really? Are you sure? Why?”

An inexperienced client may be uncertain about what a prospect knows and what they don’t.

In that case, layer in some background as described in my article “How to write a white paper for multiple audiences.”

Sometimes a SME wants to include a step-by-step “history lesson” on how the product was developed.

In that case, gently tell them, “Yes, that’s interesting to us. But I’m concerned that your prospects might stop reading if we go into that.”

All in all, I urge you—marketers and writers both—don’t cross the red line.

Thanks to Manny Gordon for this concept, which he used when interviewing software developers for technical writing projects.


screenshot of Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule

Headline Analyzer: Rates your white paper headlines for originality and SEO

Headline Analyzer is one of my secret weapons. It always helps me come up with a more engaging title for a white paper.

Remember, the title is one of the most important parts of your document.

If your title doesn’t POP in a list of search results, your paper could be passed over and never noticed. That’s where Headline Analyzer comes in.

Once you have a draft title, you can type it into Headline Analyzer and see how it scores.

Then you can play around with different words and phrases to see how each change affects your score.

use Headline Analyzer to improve your score

Headline Analyzer gives you a Headline Score out of 100 that shows the overall effectiveness of the headline.

If that score is not even in the 70s, I try out some alternatives.

If I can push it past 80, I’m pretty happy. And so are my clients.

Yes, you can always raise your score by pushing your title closer to clickbait. But then you’re gambling with the credibility of your piece. I don’t think that’s wise.

Free and paid versions

With the free version of Headline Analyzer, you see the Headline Score and all this feedback:

  • Balance between common, uncommon, and emotive words
  • Character and word counts
  • Clarity
  • Sentiment
  • Skimmability
  • Reading grade level

But you only see the last three headlines you worked on. And you don’t get an SEO Score.

With the paid version, you see every version of every headline you ever tried plus Suggestions, and you can access the Power and Emotional Word Banks.

You also get the SEO Score out of 100, which I really like. It quickly pulls up similar-titled articles you can click to, giving you a useful sample of the other material the search string will show to a prospect.

The cost of Headline Analyzer depends on how many headlines you want to check each month:

  • 5 headlines for $9 a month ($108 a year)
  • 20 headlines for $29 a month ($348 a year)
  • 60 headlines for $49 a month ($588 a year)

I’m good with five a month; I use a couple for white papers and a couple for articles on this website.

There are similar apps on the web but Headline Analyzer is top-rated.

I believe even the free version provides the richest feedback of any alternative. And I’ve found the paid version well worth $108 a year.

I have no affiliate relationship with this company. I just wanted to share this tool because it’s worked so well for me.


my bookself 9-nov-2022

What I’m thankful for: Great books!

I’ve been lucky enough to make my life as a writer. Which means I’ve had the great privilege to spend 40+ years immersing myself in books.

I’m also thankful that my eldest daughter is on her way to becoming better-than-me at updating Web pages. Recently, we worked together to share the books that have given me so much:

  • A quick reference as I worked
  • Wise guidance on thorny issues of style or form
  • A shot of inspiration when I needed it most

I keep all these titles on my bookshelves. And I often reach for them!

Check out my updated list of recommended books on white papers and everything else

book cover Creativity Inc

Right now I’m really enjoying Creativity, Inc.

It tells the inside story of the Pixar Animation Studios by someone who was there from the beginning.

The book has many insights on how to keep a team working creatively.

And how to watch for deep problems that could tear your business apart.

It’s all great stuff from Ed Catmull, computer-scientist-turned-entrepreneur-turned-president of Disney Animation, who remains a kid at heart.


Yes, I get a few pennies from Amazon if you click through and buy from my list.

I use those pennies to buy prizes for my monthly book giveaways!

Book Giveaway logo

November Book Giveaway

Here’s an easy one: Tell me about one indispensable book for writers that isn’t already in my list of recommended books.

That should be a book for non-fiction writers, not something like Romance Writing for Dummies, okay?

Then tell me which book from my list you’d like to win.

Deadline for entries: 6 P.M. Eastern on Friday, December 2.

I’ll pick one entry at random and send you your chosen book in December, compliments of the season.

What are you waiting for? Here’s my list so you can tell me what’s missing!

Then email your entry to [email protected].

That’s all for this time

If you liked this e-newsletter, please forward it to a colleague interested in white papers.

You can see all the previous issues here:

And if you have any comments or questions about white papers, please send them to [email protected] and I’ll do my best to answer… maybe in my next article!

Good luck with all your projects!

Gordon Graham
That White Paper Guy


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.

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