1. Don't make the whitepaper too long (or too short)

A four-page document may be easy to read, but it usually fails to provide sufficient information to aid in effective decision-making. At the other end of the spectrum, long whitepapers (15-20 pages) can challenge the attention span of readers.

A happy medium of 8-10 pages (about 3,000 words), including illustrations, provides sufficient space to cover a complex subject area in a readable length. (A notable exception to this recommendation: Some highly technical audiences demand even more information, justifying a longer paper.)

2. Use the third person in the whitepaper

Though the pronouns "I" and "we" (first person) or "you" and "your" (second person) may seem friendly in a whitepaper at first blush, they may actually alienate the reader. Most whitepaper readers expect to gain useful, credible information in a professional business context. The casual tone of the first or second person is inconsistent with this expectation.

Use of the third person is almost always a better choice for professional business writing.

3. Refrain from including marketing information about your product or service throughout the whitepaper

In most cases, the goal of a whitepaper is to provide unbiased, objective information to educate and inform a target audience, and to demonstrate thought leadership. Adopting a marketing tone or incorporating marketing-oriented language in a whitepaper reduces the objectivity of the paper, thereby interfering with that goal.

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Steve Hoffman is president of Hoffman Marketing Communications, Inc., (www.hoffmanmarcom.com), which specializes in writing whitepapers for technology companies around the world.