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White Paper World 8: September 14, 2022

  • Fresh content: A tale of four white papers
  • Quick Tip: Three keys to better writing
  • Tools of the trade: One-stop word research
  • Just for fun: My favorite joke

Fresh content: A tale of four white papers

four white paper covers

When I think back over the 300+ white papers I’ve worked on, a few stand out clearly in my memory.

Like these four in particular. Each one faced a distinct challenge we worked to overcome.

In the end, the success of each project required a rather old-school character trait, such as patience or trust.

Here are the stories of these four white papers and what we can learn from them.
(You can peruse a copy of each white paper too!)


3 keys from a keyboard that makes for better writing

Quick Tip: Three keys to better writing

Are you struggling to achieve a crisp, business-like writing style?

Here are three keys to better writing. They’re all right there on your keyboard, and using them is free.

Delete key
Cut unnecessary words


And replace longer words with shorter words.

Here’s one trick for doing that.

Whenever you see similar terms joined with “and” or “or,” pick the stronger and drop the weaker. For example:

  • “verbose or run-on sentences” = “run-on sentences”
  • “humid and muggy afternoons” = “muggy afternoons”
  • “stern and authoritarian leadership” = “stern leadership”

Now re-examine the third bullet above. Notice how “stern” has one syllable, while “authoritarian” has five.

As long as it conveys more-or-less the same idea, pick the word with fewer syllables.

Period key
Break longer sentences in two


Q: How long is too long for a sentence?

A: Any sentence you can’t read out loud without taking another breath.

Think of each period as a pause to take a breath. If you haven’t seen a period for a while, you need one.

Another simple trick is to stick to one thought per sentence.

If you notice a second thought trying to sneak in, stop it in its tracks with a period.

Enter key

Break longer paragraphs


Q: How long is too long for a paragraph?

A: Any chunk of text so long your eyes want to skip it.

Remember, 90% of white papers are scanned on the screen.

B2B prospects don’t savor every word like they’re reading a Jane Austen novel.

They skim, scan, and skip their way down the screen. Don’t you?

To sum up

Use fewer words. Use shorter words. Use shorter sentences. And use shorter paragraphs.

Decades of research show these three keys add up to more people actually reading your content.


screenshot of

Tools of the trade: One-stop word research

I don’t know about you, but when I look up a word online, I don’t especially care what Merriam-Webster or any other single source says.

I want to see how people use language across the world wide web.

And I’ve just come across a power-packed website that provides an unbelievable number of functions in one place, clearly drawing on the power of the web.

It’s called WordHippo at If you’re a writer who ever needs to look up a word, bookmark it right now.

Here’s a taste of what WordHippo can find:

  • A definition of a word like a dictionary
  • A synonym or antonym (opposite) for a word like a thesaurus
  • Words that rhyme like a rhyming dictionary
  • Sample sentences that use a word

WordHippo can also find words from 2 to 14 letters long that start or end with, include, or don’t include certain letters.

It can show different forms of a word: adjective or adverb, noun or verb, past or present, singular or plural.

It can even translate any word to dozens of other languages from Afrikaans to Zulu, and pronounce any word for you.

And if that’s not all, it has features for crosswords and Scrabble. And I’m quite sure WordHippo would give you a devastating advantage in competitive Wordle.


a priest, a rabbi, and a monk walk into a bar

Just for fun: My favorite joke

A Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and a Buddhist monk walk into a bar.

The bartender looks the three up and down quizzically.

Then he asks, “What is this—some kinda joke?”


My family rolls their eyes whenever I tell that one.

But I like the meta-ness of that joke, that it’s self-referential, somehow perched on a higher level looking down on our world.

Something like a good white paper, right?



That’s all for this time

If you liked this e-newsletter, please forward it to a colleague who’s 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 Gordon AT 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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