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Zeus the king of the ancient Greek gods

White papers and… the Greek gods?!

In ancient Greece, tales of the gods served to inspire, caution, and educate mortals.

Today these legends can guide us to create white papers that ascend to the heights of Mount Olympus.

Here are five tips on how these timeless gods and goddesses can inspire us to create more effective long-form content.

3.5 minute read. 6 minute listen. 


Greek postage stamp showing ancient coin of Athena and her symbol the wise owl

Greek postage stamp showing the goddess Athena and her symbol, the wise owl

White papers and Greek gods 1: Plan your paper wisely

Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy.

Every move she made was deliberate. Every piece of advice she gave was insightful.

Her animal symbol was a fitting choice: the wise owl.

Among her many gifts to humanity was the olive tree. No wonder they named a whole city after her: Athens.

Like Athena crafting a strategy, you must plan your white paper thoughtfully.

Make sure that you:

  • Consider your audience
  • Plan your argument step-by-step
  • Give strong evidence for every claim

Just as Athena would lay out a masterful plan, make sure your white paper resonates with purpose and authority.

Theseus and the Minotaur greek pottery style

Theseus and the Minotaur, in Greek pottery style


White papers and Greek gods 2: Don’t build a maze no one can escape

Remember the story of Daedalus and the labyrinth? Here’s a quick refresher.

The king of Crete asked gifted architect Daedalus to build an unsolvable labyrinth to imprison the half-man/half-bull Minotaur.

But the hero Theseus determined to beat the maze and kill the Minotaur.

He unspooled a red ball of yarn as he went, found the best and killed it, and then followed the thread back out of the maze.

red ball of thread

What does this have to do with white papers?

Navigating a maze requires a clear path an explorer can follow. By the same token, a white paper requires a clear argument a reader can follow.

Just as Theseus needed his red yarn, your readers need a clear line through your narrative.

Make sure that you:

  • Preview your main ideas at the start
  • Define any new terms clearly
  • Use headings and subheadings as guideposts
  • Repeat the key findings at the end

All these hints will help any reader easily follow your argument and emerge with the conclusion you want them to reach.

statue of Apollo in the Vatican

A statue of Apollo in the Vatican

White papers and Greek gods 3: Blend many elements into an effective whole

You remember Apollo, who drove a fiery chariot—the sun—across the sky from dawn to dusk.

Did you know he had a side gig as the god of music and poetry?

Apollo had the gift of blending different elements into a pleasing presentation.

Consider how a musical blends all different mediums—music, lyrics, voice, instruments, costumes, sets, and lighting—into a spectacle.

In the same way, your white paper must blend text, visuals, facts, rhetoric, and design into a harmonious whole.

In particular, you must:

  • Develop a good mix of text and visuals
  • Include bold, bullets, headings, pull quotes, and tables
  • Introduce, develop, and sum up your key ideas

This way, your white paper will bring together many different elements to engage and enchant your readers.


Hermes the messenger of the Greek gods and today's DC character the Flash

Hermes the messenger of the Greek gods and today’s DC character the Flash

White papers and Greek gods 4: Deliver the message swiftly

Hermes was the messenger of the gods, known for the wings on his feet and his helmet.

He can inspire us with his amazing speed.

This same archetype was called Mercury by the Romans and then Flash in DC comics.

Remember, your goal is not to make people read a long paper right to the end. Your goal is to deliver a clear message to exactly the right recipient.

That means you must:

  • Get to the point
  • Make your writing concise
  • Avoid meandering into unnecessary details
  • Deliver the key messages quickly and precisely

Let Hermes inspire you to write in a crisp style that gets the message across with no wasted words.

White papers and Greek gods 5: Give readers a flash of insight

lightning striking the seaAs the king of the Olympians, Zeus ruled over his realm. His might was symbolized by his powerful bolts of lightning.

And just like a bolt from Zeus, your white paper must land with precision and illuminate your ideas.

In particular, you must strive to:

• Tell a unique story, not just a “me-too” idea
• Shine fresh light on confusing topics
• Build towards a flash of enlightenment

Like a strike of lightning, your white paper should transform a reader’s understanding of the topic and leave a lasting impression.


Let the gods inspire your next white paper

Greek mythology can inspire us to write effective white papers today.

From the careful strategy of Athena to the flash of insight from Zeus, these mythic figures can provide many lessons for long-form content.

By integrating the strengths of these ancients, professional writers today can elevate our white papers to become truly memorable.

May your white papers resonate with the wisdom of the Greek gods!


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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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