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White Paper World 19: March 23, 2023

  • Quick tip: With AI, write a numbered list
  • This just in: My white paper for the Linux Foundation
  • Tools of the trade: Erasable pens
  • March Book Giveaway Contest: Tell us about your first quarter

with AI do a numbered list

Quick tip: With AI, write a numbered list*

ChatGPT struggles to write logical long-form content.

So don’t do it. To write a white paper with AI, create a numbered list. 

A numbered list—aka a strawberry white paper—presents a collage of related points.

You can arrange those points in sensible order.

But you don’t have to build a case that advances from A to B to C with a logical argument, as in a problem/solution or chocolate white paper.

That makes the strawberry flavor much easier for an AI program to generate.

Here’s how to get ChatGPT to write a numbered list

  1. Prompt the AI with your target audience.
  2. Prompt the AI with your topic.
  3. Then ask for the seven or nine or 12 most important points, questions, or thoughts on that topic.
  4. Then ask it to write up each point in turn.

As you may know, I’ve done this with ChatGPT. The AI instantly came up with nine strong points on my suggested topic.

I kept all nine points because they were good.

Then I asked it to write up each point in turn so it didn’t get overwhelmed by the word count.

You’ll likely have to do some initial research to start, some fact-checking on what ChatGPT writes, and some polishing to make its flat style sparkle.

But you’ll have your listicle white paper done much quicker than if you wrote it from scratch.

Let’s talk about word count

Even ChatGPT-3.5 can easily put out 200 or 300 words per prompt.

And it can do 400 or 500 words if you need them.

So here’s some quick math: nine points X 350 words plus Introduction and Conclusions, and you’re close to 3,500 words.

That’s about the sweet spot for a numbered list.

So if you want to try doing a white paper with ChatGPT, start with the light and lively strawberry flavor.

*Wait a second! What’s a numbered list? Strawberry?! If you aren’t familiar with the different types of white papers and the lingo I use for them, here’s the low-down.


This just in: My paper for the Linux Foundation

cover Why the world needs an open digital wallet | LF

Click to see this white paper I wrote


A white paper I wrote came out this month from the Linux Foundation.

It’s about the need for an open-source digital wallet to end the insanity of every app maker, company, country, and bank issuing their own incompatible wallets.


I wrote the paper last fall, but it’s just being promoted now.

In the meantime, the organizers of the new Open Wallet Foundation worked tirelessly behind the scenes to attract a huge amount of interest.

The OWF has caught the attention of many players: from national governments and Big Tech firms to credit card companies and NGOs concerned about digital ID and privacy.

They all get the point: Digital wallets should work for anyone anywhere, keep consumer data private, and make it easy to switch to a different brand.

A little background on this project

Flavor: This paper is rather like a problem/solution (chocolate):

  • Pages 5 through 7 sketch in the business landscape
  • Pages 8 through 10 describe the problem
  • Pages 11 and 12 give the proposed solution

It doesn’t map perfectly to a classic problem/solution, but that’s fine.

Remember my 3-4-5 rule: The 3 flavors cover 4 out of 5 white papers.

Length: At 2,800 words, this paper is a little shorter than usual for a problem/solution.

But it runs 15 pages, including a full-page infographic and plenty of white space that makes it easy on the eyes.

Readability: The main body hits these acceptable readability metrics…

  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease of 55 out of 100 (I aim for 50 or higher)
  • Grade Level of Grade 9 (I aim for Grade 10 or lower)

The Foreword, not so much.

That was tacked on without me seeing it and it’s not very readable. A few more paragraph breaks would’ve helped, plus shortening some of the sentences.

Remember: For better readability, use shorter words, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs.

Source of work: Most writers are curious about how I land projects like this.

In this case, it’s repeat work from a previous client. That’s the easiest way business ever comes in.

My client moved from a smaller organization to the Linux Foundation and thought of me when this project came up. I first met her at a conference about five years ago.

So keep in touch with your favorite clients. If they move to a new organization, you can end up with two clients instead of one.

Credit line: This white paper includes my name and bio at the end.

I don’t ask for that, and I don’t expect it, but I have to admit: It’s kinda nice to see it.

And that means no one will ever have a problem with me using this as a sample. They’ve already told the world I wrote it.

Infographic: The cool graphics at the start were created by the LF publication team, who did a nice job on this whole document.

A final note: No AI was involved in writing this white paper.


Pilot Frixon erasable pens

Tools of the trade: FriXion erasable pens

Here’s a non-digital, non-AI tool I love: my Pilot FriXion erasable pen!

This wonder of the modern world appeared in 2006, but somehow I missed it. The company has since sold billions of these little gems.

The pens feature a special three-part ink that goes transparent with heat. The end of the pen is a plastic nub you can rub to create friction to heat up your scribbles and make them disappear.

Here’s a detailed article on the history and science of these pens.

Some vital use cases for erasable ink at our house

  • Adding items to the Master Calendar on our fridge
  • Writing to-do items in my daily planner
  • Doing crossword puzzles—in ink!
  • Filling in paper forms where I might goof up

Not to mention marking up drafts of white papers!

With this fiendishly clever invention, I can jot down anything, anytime, anywhere, secure in the knowledge that if I have any second thoughts, I can quickly erase my jottings.

A critic might say people have been erasing pencil marks for centuries.

That’s not the point. The point is that ink is brighter than graphite, and these pens come in a rainbow of colors.

All this and refills too

I feel better whenever I don’t throw another used-up pen in the garbage. So I’ve ordered a year’s worth of refills.

For all their advanced tech, these pens are not pricey.

You can order a pack of three blue and three black for $12 from Amazon today, and be happily erasing your pen marks tomorrow.

Replacement cartridges run about a buck each.


Book Giveaway logo

March Book Giveaway Contest

Since 2023 is now about one quarter over, how’s it going?

Drop me a note summing up how it’s been going with your writing biz.

Are you where you want to be? Ahead of schedule? Behind?

Worried about AI? Sick of AI?

Happy with a win you want to share?

Discouraged about something that didn’t work out?

Just tell me something about how it’s going that you’re okay to see published in this newsletter.

I’ll pick one entry and the winner will get to choose a title from my list of recommended books here.

The deadline is 6 PM Eastern, Friday, March 31. 

Click here to tell me how your year’s going so far.


That’s all for this time

Thanks for reading another newsletter.

I’ve been super-busy checking out ChatGPT-4 and finishing up something special coming in April.

If you missed anything, you can see all the previous issues here:

And if you aren’t already, make sure to subscribe here:

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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