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I am not posing as a definitive authority here, but I know of no
technical writing style manual or other work which defines the term
white paper. The indexes to the GPO style guide and the Chicago
Manual of Style do not mention the term. What I get from my
dictionaries is that a white paper is authoritative. What I know
from experience is that white paper is a kind of miscellaneous
category, outside the realm of your everyday documentation, whatever
that is. It could be like an unpublished article, or it could be a
proposal of some sort. Or it could be something for your users that
you put up on the internet.
I know that I wrote one once with a kind of proposal or marketing
theme. In my present job, which is software documentation, I
constantly study our products looking for things to say to users.
Naturally, my documentation provides procedures, but I keep looking
beyond that to the area of guidelines (or what the training-oriented
call principles). I keep wondering if our documentation set would be
more effective if we created guidelines for our users and wrote them
into a white paper which could be put up on the internet. In our
case, I would think of addressing the more technical users.
You seem to be groping for rules or structure, but I don't think you
are going to find any. In all probability, your white paper will be
what you or your boss make it to be, and your white paper may not be
like my white paper or anybody else's.
bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com
San Diego, California
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