White Papers vs. Talking Papers?

Subject: White Papers vs. Talking Papers?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "McKinney, Suzanne" <smckinney -at- eei1 -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2006 19:03:01 -0400

Suzanne McKinney wondered: <<I've been asked about white papers vs. talking papers.>>

"Talking" papers? New one on me. I've heard of "discussion papers", though.

<<1) Is there a relationship? That is, is the white paper the more formal, longer paper and the talking paper the subset that addresses just a part of the material in the white paper?>>

There's some weak consensus among writers about what these things mean, but it's weak. Some are sales pitches, some are position papers, and some are technology infodumps, and the guys who insist most vociferously on a single definition are usually selling their (overpriced) services as writers of that specific subgenre of white paper.

In any event, managers aren't aware of any of this, and use the terms indiscriminately. Best bet is always to get the manager to clearly define what they heck they want. Don't assume you know which of several options they think they mean.

<<2) Is there a defining line between the two? 3) Are there good templates/content structure guidelines available?>>

The defining line is whatever the manager tells you it is. In terms of templates, there are undoubtedly such things you can find on the Web, but that way lies cookie-cutter white papers that read like everyone else's white paper--or would, if anyone read them.

Instead, why not take a long step back and ask yourself what the most effective format (style, order, content) would be for your specific communication task? It's a bit harder than using a one-size-fits-all solution, but you'll have more fun writing it and people may actually read it.
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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca

(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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White Papers vs. Talking Papers: From: McKinney, Suzanne

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