Whitepaper or white paper?

In business, marketers or organizations will often create documents that are in-depth studies of their industry or something interesting to the ideal customer.

These documents are called a “whitepaper” (or is it “white paper”?) and are usually quite lengthy, require an email or other bit of information to access, and are sometimes even paid. They cost quite a bit of money to produce, and because of that companies want to make sure they’re perfect (which is why EditorNinja offers services specifically for this type of content).

So let’s try to understand, is it “whitepaper” or “white paper”?

Whitepaper or white paper?

In a lot of online writing, you will come across the use of “whitepaper.” In fact, Google returns 42,900,000 results for a search for “whitepaper.” That seems like a lot until you learn that “white paper” has 144,000,000 results, though some of that is without a doubt for instances not talking about an authoritative document produced by a company to highlight a specific topic.

To determine if “whitepaper” or “white paper” is more correct, we went down the research rabbit hole.

What we found is that every style of writing prefers “white paper” over “whitepaper.”

MLA/Purdue – “A white paper typically starts with a big picture and leads readers to the proposed solution.”

AP style – “AP Style tip: It’s white paper, two words, lowercase, when used to refer to a special report.”

Chicago – “If you are making reference to the paper in general, straight Roman is fine. No caps, no italics. “When the government released its white paper on energy consumption in 1984 . . .” If you’re referring to it by title I would cap and italicize it. “When the government released [i]We Must Meet”

Can I use “whitepaper” instead?

While “white paper” is technically the most correct, according to UMass:

“Whitepaper is an acceptable preference at best, while white paper is the standard.”

So the answer is yes, you can use “whitepaper” if you have already done so but it is most correct to use “white paper.” When working with an editor, they will likely correct you to “white paper” but you also have the discretion to keep “whitepaper.”

What is a white paper?

According to the UMass Lowell Library:

white paper is a research-based report which offers a focused description of a complex topic and presents the point of view of the author or body represented by the author.  The purpose of a white paper is to give readers understanding of an issue, which in turn helps them solve a problem or make a decision.

Marketers create whitepapers to educate their audience about a particular issue or explain and promote a particular methodology. They’re advanced problem-solving guides. Typically, whitepapers require at least an email address for download (usually they require information more than that), making them great for capturing leads.”

A white paper is NOT a sales pitch or a place to try to convince the world that your product or service is better than another.

In short, a white paper is marketing collateral, not sales collateral.

So, white paper or whitepaper?

“White paper” is the most correct writing, though “whitepaper” is an acceptable preference.

Looking for editing help for your content? Want to make sure you’re using white paper correctly, along with other areas of grammar in question? Schedule a time to speak with our team to see how EditorNinja can help you create better copy.