We’re now half way through the white paper creation process. In part one, you defined your purpose and determined your topic. In part two, you got down to business, starting with the outline and then putting the meat on the bones. Now you have a fully drafted first version of your new white paper. Although you’ve done the bulk of the hard work, you’re not done yet!

Unfortunately, you might have written the greatest white paper, but your readers will not be compelled to read pages of plain text. It just won’t happen. Decision makers today are very busy and now have a much shorter attention span. They are much more likely to read and stay with a paper that has shorter paragraphs that are broken up with visual interest. Personally, I try to add something visual to each page.

Let’s get started.

Formatting your paper – Begin with the easy part – the margins. Because we will use the margins to include additional, interesting content, set you margins at 1” top and bottom, 2.5” on the left side and 1.25” on the right side. Change the line spacing to 1.5 to open up the text even further. I like using arial font type with about 11 for the body and 14 for the subheads. Subheads may be colored to match your company brand, provided they still stand out.

Because white papers are more often read online, I prefer to use a single-column, left justified style to prevent scrolling up and down. Finish off with headers and footers. Add your company logo, white paper title, and the words “white paper” to your header. The footer might include page numbers, publication date, copyright, and web address.

Charts and graphs – In your research and writing, you may have come across data that would help make your point visually. Charts (tables) and graphs are a quick way to display a large amount of information. Make sure they have proper axis labels, they are assigned a number, and are located before they are mentioned in the text. Be sure you do refer to them and quickly describe the point the chart or graph is making.

Pull quotes – Your reader will read your paper in your voice. Additional (credible) voices will make your paper stronger and help validate the points you are making. Look for opportunities to add quotes from other credible sources. These should be just a sentence or two and added to the sidebar of your paper. Highlight the quotes using color, lines, italics and other methods.

Images and diagrams – Pictures are a great way to break up long text areas. You may already have diagrams that show how your product works or pictures of your product in use. Conceptual images can also be used, provided they add value and are not just space fillers.

I think that’s enough to keep you busy till next time where we’ll talk about cover pages, executive summaries, and getting your paper into your reader’s hands.