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White Paper World 39: April 12, 2024

  • Quick tip: Shun the TIONs!
  • Still relevant: My 2014 interview in Huffington Post [with samples]
  • Still irrelevant: Some poor advice on white papers
  • April Book Giveaway: Send me bad advice

Listen to this edition (10 minutes total):

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, to my total consternation: puffed-up words that end in TION.

Too many people play this game of word puffery.

You just add TION to any verb, and “poof!” it turns into a noun. 

But in my book, that’s going in the wrong direction.

I believe any TION tends to move us away from concrete details into the wispy clouds of abstraction.

That’s for sneaky bureaucrats with something to hide.

Or salespeople who want to sound important without actually saying anything.

Here are three excellent reasons why writers should shun the TIONs

  • They waste words
  • They encourage passive voice
  • They bore audiences

You know how we always hear that telling a story sparks engagement?

I believe using a bunch of TIONs is the exact opposite of telling a story.

Where a story is concrete, direct, and specific, a report packed with TIONs is abstract, indirect, and vague.

Is that really how you want your white paper to sound?

While we’re at it, let’s throw out all the other variations like ATION and IZATION and the UK version spelled ISATION.

sneaky speaker using lots of TIONs

Sure, sometimes you can’t avoid using a TION word like “administration” or “regulation.”

But when you write, try to keep them to a minimum.

And when you revise, see if you can get rid of any that slipped in.

Some of my least favorite TIONs

The following table shows 25 of the TIONs I dislike the most, along with how to restate them using shorter, simpler verbs.

Do you have any more of your own?

Allot, assign, distribute
ApprobationApprove, back, support
ApproximationGuess, estimate, reckon
CollaborationPartner, team up, work with
CompensationPay, reimburse, reward
DigitalizationConvert, computerize, scan
DuplicationCopy, match
DeletionClear, discard, remove
EradicationReduce, remove, wipe out
Evaluationassess, measure, review
FabricationBuild, construct, make
HybridizationBlend, combine, mix
ImplementationCarry out, deploy, make happen
IntegrationConnect, install, join
ItemizationCount, detail, list
LocalizationAdapt, convert, translate
MonetizationEarn, make money, profit
OptimizationEnhance, improve, streamline
ParticipationHelp, join, take part
PersonalizationAdapt, customize, tailor
RepresentationDepict, show, symbolize
SecuritizationConvert, finance, secure
Utilization Employ, use
VisualizationDepict, imagine, show
VocalizationSay, sing, speak

ChatGPT logoP.S. I used ChatGPT to help develop this list of TIONs and DALL-E to generate the rice bowls in the graphic (they needed a lot of touchups).

logo of the Huffington Post online newspaper

Still relevant: My interview in HuffPost

3.5 minute read. 

Veteran marketer John Fox just reminded me of the interview we did for Huffington Post… 10 years ago!

In some fields, 10 years is an eternity.

During that time, content marketing moved from a would-be-nice to a must-do for every marketer… and an excellent source of work for any B2B writer.

So I’m pleased with how well that interview from 2014 stood the test of time.

Even though a couple of links are broken from companies that merged or went under, all the basic concepts are evergreen.

Here’s how it starts.

I am here to tell you that rumors of the death of the white paper are greatly exaggerated. And they’re not just for the Fortune 500. White papers may have the longest shelf life of all content, and they can be sliced and diced to meet a variety of marketing purposes. —John Fox

John goes on to describe a certain “fatigue factor” with white papers.

I reply that people do get tired of a format when they never see it done properly.

You can see that full piece from the HuffPost here.

During the interview, I mentioned two white papers I worked on.

Here’s a brief discussion and link to each sample so you can see those for yourself.


A non-traditional backgrounder (vanilla) white paper

cover of non-traditional product backgrounder or vanilla white paper

Click to see the full PDF

This little handbook describes a tour of a fictional company called the Acme Tricycle Works.

This is certainly not a traditional format. It’s the size of a paperback with color photos on almost every page.

To reach as many people as possible, it’s written in simple text, like a young adult book.

This guide achieved its purpose: to explain the features and benefits of our offering in a memorable way.

And it really did help the company land millions of dollars worth of sales.


A classic problem/solution (chocolate) white paper

cover of classic problem/solution white paper

Click to see the full PDF

I wrote this white paper for an innovative marketing company called Moving Targets.

This is a classic chocolate flavor aimed at local retailers aka “Mom & Pop” shops.

The problem is the fact that some customers stop buying every year called “customer erosion.” Maybe they move away, get disenchanted, or even die.

The solution is to continuously replace those customers with fresh arrivals in the neighborhood, using the sponsor’s unique marketing services.


I like these two samples because they show how white papers can be colorful and accessible and still powerful.

To me, these two white papers for totally different audiences, about totally different subjects, are both done quite effectively. What do you think?


Still irrelevant: Some poor advice on white papers

2 minute read. 

I’m happy that my advice about white papers from 10 years ago hasn’t gone out of date.

But not all white paper “wisdom” has fared so well.  

Here are two examples of bad advice I’ve encountered over the years.

Outdated advice #1: Make them as jazzy as possible

busy piece of art by Tim Robinson in New York Times

A graphic that’s just too busy for any white paper
by Tim Robinson in the New York Times

Here’s some misguided advice I heard more than 20 years ago:

Use lots of color and pizzazz in your white papers. Make them as jazzy as possible to keep people awake.

But wait a minute.

White papers are supposed to be authoritative, persuasive essays built from facts and logic for skeptical B2B prospects.

How does jazz and pizzazz work for those documents?

It doesn’t. That was ridiculous advice then… and it’s still ridiculous today.

Outdated advice #2: There are 12 different types

When I first started writing white papers, all the “experts” agreed there were 8, 10, or 12 types of white papers. Or even more.

After a few years, I sat down to make a list of all my projects.

I was delighted to find I’d worked on more than 100 white papers. And I took a minute to look at each one.

An astonishing thought struck me: Nearly all the white papers I’d written fell into only three buckets.

photos pf three types of ice cream cones to represent the three types of white papers

It was a sweltering summer day and my kids were begging for ice cream.

On that trip for ice cream, I came up with my three flavors of white papers: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.

And from that day on, I no longer agreed there are 8 or 10 different types of white papers.

My three types cover 4 out of 5 white papers. Believe it.

And to find out more, see my free infographic on those three flavors.


Book Giveaway logo

April Book Giveaway: Send me bad advice

1 minute read. 

Have you ever heard something about white papers that you don’t think is right?

That can even be something I said. I don’t mind.

So send it to me and tell me why you don’t agree.

And if you send me something, I’ll enter your name in my April Book Giveaway.

The winner gets to choose any title from my list of recommended books on white papers (and everything else)

To enter, drop me an email at gordon @ by 6 PM Eastern Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

I’ll publish the winning entry with a mini-profile of our new winner.


That’s all for now

Please pass this newsletter along to anyone else you think would appreciate it.

You can see all the previous issues of White Paper World here:

You can listen to all the audio versions here:

To make sure you see every future issue, visit:

And good luck with all your writing 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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