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The use of a white paper varies greatly, with lots of different definitions given if you ask the question; “what is a white paper?”. Generally, they’re defined as being a written report that details certain things and offers solutions to those who read it. In government, however, white papers aren’t used in this way and they have different purposes. There are also “green papers” and “blue papers”. In this article, we’ll be answering the following questions for you:

  • What is a white paper?
  • When are blue and green papers used?
  • What’s the purpose of a white paper?
  • How can you write a white paper?


What is a white paper?

A white paper is a document that’s published for informational purposes. It’s issued by not-for-profit organisations and different companies who wish to detail distinguished features of a solution, service or product they offer. White papers can also be used as persuasive, authoritative and detailed reports about a specific issue and works to provide a solution for the reader. They’re also used by governments across the world as a way of presenting new legislation and policies to the general public. The government can also use this as a way of gauging public opinion before they go ahead with any legislative changes.


Why are they called white papers?

In the 19th century, the parliamentary report covers in Britain were blue and they were known, originally, as “blue papers”, claims Investopedia. If issues for the government were less serious, then those reports were published with white covers as opposed to blue. As such, they became known as “white papers”.

White papers were also designated for public access, according to the SLS. There are also “green papers”, which make reference to the government consultation on policy, states the University of Southampton. In the United States, on the other hand, government white papers signal guidance on specific issues or a background report.


What is the purpose of a white paper?

White papers have several different purposes depending on which industry is publishing them. Typically, when not used by the government, they’re used to entice and persuade prospective clients and customers in order for them to learn more about one or more of the following things:

  • Products
  • Services
  • Technology
  • Methodology
  • Solutions

They’re most commonly designed for business-to-business (B2B) marketing. This is because in-depth reports and guides about specific topics, products or services are published with the sole aim of educating the reader. The information provided, where applicable, should always be backed up with statistics and facts, with references given to back up your claims. 


How to write a white paper

White papers are different from leaflets, brochures, articles and blog posts. As such, there’s a completely different way of writing them. Usually, they’re written in an academic tone of voice, designed to provide factual evidence and persuasive content that solves a challenge or problem. They should be at least 2,5000 words in length and be well-researched. Tips for    writing a white paper include:

  • Doing in-depth research
  • Fully-defining the topic you want to write about
  • Creating an accurate level of information and content
  • Leaving references to journals, websites etc where your statistics or factual information came from
  • Writing attention-grabbing introductions 
  • Formatting the layout so that it’s easy to read and straightforward to follow
  • Revising the content and proofreading it meticulously


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Author Biography


As an experienced Copywriter, Lorna enjoys creating varied content for an abundance of different industries and sectors. From detailed, informative articles to creative infographics, she's always looking to inject originality into the work she produces. When she isn't working, Lorna runs her own lifestyle blog, plays the guitar and loves to take part in charity runs.