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Writing a White Paper


White papers are often used to describe a too technical marketing document, or a too fluffy technical document. Whatever you are focusing on, below are a few guides on writing a proper white paper, oriented perhaps more towards technology.

To those of you who are lazy to thoroughly review the references below, I’ve prepared this very basic fast & furious guidelines. I found few of those useful (write a shitty first draft is my favourite – I like it so much that I extend the practice to anything I write. Yes, including this post. I got to edit again…). Perhaps so would you.

Principles

  1. Correctness – Write correct English, but know that you have more latitude than your high-school English teachers may have given you.
  2. Consistent names – Refer to each significant character (algorithm, concept, language) using the same word everywhere. Give a significant new character a proper name.
  3. Singular – To distinguish one-to-one relationships from n-to-m relationships, refer to each item in the singular, not the plural.
  4. Subjects and verbs – Put your important characters in subjects, and join each subject to a verb that expresses a significant action.
  5. Information flow – In each sentence, move your reader from familiar information to new information.
  6. Emphasis – For material you want to carry weight or be remembered, use the end of a sentence.
  7. Coherence – In a coherent passage, choose subjects that refer to a consistent set of related concepts.
  8. Parallel structure – Order your text so your reader can easily see how related concepts are different and how they are similar.
  9. Abstract – In an abstract, don’t enumerate a list of topics covered; instead, convey the essential information found in your paper.

Practices

  1. Write in brief daily sessions – Ignore the common myth that successful writing requires large, uninterrupted blocks of time—instead, practice writing in brief, daily sessions.
  2. Focus on the process, not the product – Don’t worry about the size or quality of your output; instead, reward yourself for the consistency and regularity of your input.
  3. Prewrite – Don’t be afraid to think before you write, or even jot down notes, diagrams, and so on.
  4. Use index cards – Use them to plan a draft or to organize or reorganize a large unit like a section or chapter.
  5. Write a Shitty First Draft – Value a first draft not because it’s great but because it’s there.
  6. Don’t worry about page limits – Write the paper you want, then cut it down to size.
  7. Cut – Plan a revision session in which your only goal is to cut.

References:

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