How long should a white paper be?

May 9, 2008

Being asked to write a white paper (a corporate term paper that one is allowed to make grammatical mistakes on), the question is, like for schooldays term papers, how long should they be?

The criteria I see is:

  • Need to make some sort of argument, whether you are marketing something (probably the only reason for white papers in the first place), or trying to explain a reasonably complex argument.
  • Room for illustrations.
  • Can’t be too long, or it won’t get read.
  • If it’s too short, it will look like a press release or brochure. Wouldn’t have the gravitas required.
  • God forbid people would print them out, and waste paper and ink.

White paper guru Steve Hoffman suggests that a paper probably needs to be at least in the 8 – 10  page range. Expanding the range of his range, I would conclude based on all the criteria that 6 – 12 would be good. If too long, reduce the font and margins, if too short, increase the font and tighten the margins. Also, stick in pictures and charts for the heck of it.

Steve Hoffman also has good articles on white papers, and examples of his own at If you want to verbalize your magnus opus and not have it read, here’s advice on how long a podcast should be.





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