You’re probably familiar with the classic white paper: an informational, narrative document at least six pages in length that discusses a business topic or problem. But even though there’s a standard for white papers, they don’t always have to be so cut and dry.

In this day and age, it’s becoming more common for people to look for easily digestible, scannable material. Marketers are constantly having to adapt their content to this changing consumer, and this can be a challenge when it comes to long-form content like white papers. So how can we continue to engage this new type of consumer without sacrificing the content or length of our white papers?

Have no fear! We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks that can help you add some color to your white papers–without forfeiting the quality of your content. Check them out below.

1. Add numbers. Numbered lists are perfect for scanning and skimming. Try turning your topic into a “Top 5 Email Marketing Secrets ” or “8 Deadly Sins of Landing Pages.” Then, expound on each topic in the list over the course of a few paragraphs or pages. The numbered structure makes it easier for readers to pick and choose which items are the most relevant to them.

2. Include sidebars. These are separate pieces of text that are set off from the main content, often in tinted or colored boxes. They can contain background information, definitions, or short case studies to reinforce the main content.

3. Pull out important quotes. If there’s a quote you really want people to see, pull it from the main text and place it in a separate, graphic box. If your readers are scanning through your document, the pull-quote will stand out and catch their eye.

4. Incorporate callouts and statistics. If you have any “Did you know?” callouts or data that you want to emphasize, set those apart from your main text, too. Statistics and small snippets of information will jump out from the rest of the content.

5. Use Illustrations. With the increase in the popularity of visual content, it’s important to include graphs and illustrations in your white papers. Interspersing visuals with text can make a white paper more user-friendly and ultimately more engaging. Graphs of statistics can also provide great support for your points.

6. Add quick summaries. Do you remember how your high school textbooks had summaries at the end of every chapter? A short paragraph summed up thirty pages of material, making it easy to review whole chapters in just a few minutes. Your white papers can have similar summaries at the end of every section so that they’re easier to scan.

7. Create a glossary. If your white paper includes a lot of terms that your readers might not be familiar with, gather them together in a glossary at the end of your document. This will act as a useful reference for your audience. You can even make it fun by adding a few pictures.

These are just a few ideas to help you add a little bit of color to your white papers. Are there any others that you’ve used to spice things up?

Jenna Hanington

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