RE: White Papers vs. Talking Papers

Subject: RE: White Papers vs. Talking Papers
From: "Diana Ost" <Diana -dot- Ost -at- msmcorp -dot- com>
To: "McKinney, Suzanne" <smckinney -at- eei1 -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2006 08:15:13 -0400

Suzanne asked:

> 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?
> 2) Is there a defining line between the two?

As I understand it, a talking paper is often used for a presentation or
discussion by a speaker about a technical issue; for example, "Using a
Knowledge Management System in Financial Services." This paper is akin
to a presentation, with lots of bulleted points, overviews, and perhaps
some charts or tables to show a little data. The language may be simpler
with fewer hard numbers included.

White papers, on the other hand, are documented results of an analysis
of a specific topic; for example, the "Cost of Converting from Lotus
Notes to Outlook." This paper is akin to a college thesis, with
footnotes and references in the text, as well as equations, statistics,
or figures to show how the results were derived.

This is based on my experience writing both types when I worked for an
international consulting firm as an analyst, and also as a writer and
editor at an research facility for a major oil company.

There are various examples of both in different styles on the Web. Try
Sun Microsystems (, IBM (at and They
(used to) have some examples that may help you.

That's only my experience :-) Hope this helps.

Diana Ost
Technical Writer/Reporting Analyst

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