10 June 2024

How Long Is a White Paper?

‘How long is a white paper?’ is a common question, but nobody seems to have a good answer. So, we did some research. We analyzed a random sampling of 29 white papers from B2B SaaS companies and observed some interesting results. Read on to see our findings. 

In this post, we’ll cover the following topics:

What is a white paper?

A white paper is a comprehensive document that a company creates to explore a specific topic, ultimately offering insights, analyses and solutions. It is not a sales pitch, but rather an educational resource.

Typically, white papers are used in B2B marketing to establish thought leadership and address industry challenges. They present research, case studies and best practices to help readers gain a deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Well-crafted white papers are incredibly effective tools. In fact, 45% of B2B buyers find white papers are valuable when evaluating solutions. Similarly, 51% of B2B content marketers find that white papers lead to some of their best marketing results.

How long is a white paper?

Based on the answers we were seeing online, a typical white paper length is about 3,000 to 6,000 words long. But when we sought to answer the question ‘how long is a white paper?’, we found that the range was 2,000 to 4,000 words.

Average length of a white paper

However, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for an ideal length of white paper. Keep in mind that a white paper’s length should reflect the topic and the depth of information your audience wants.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to tailor your white paper to your target audience. Think about why and how your audience will use your white paper. A decision-maker might benefit from in-depth details, while someone short on time may appreciate a shorter document.

That said, sometimes it’s helpful to have a concrete starting point. 

To help out, we conducted an (informal) study on the average word count of white papers for these three audience categories: 

  • technical professionals
  • C-suite executives
  • employees in marketing, sales, operations and administration

We rounded up 8 to 11 sample white papers per group and determined the word count of each. Then, we calculated the average word count of each category. 

Average length of a white paper by audience

How long is a white paper for a technical audience?

On average, a white paper aimed at a technical audience is 4,038 words long. However, this category had significant variation: our set of sample white papers had word counts ranging from 840 to 8,120.

Average length of a white paper for a technical audience

White papers aimed at a technical audience generally benefit from being detailed. They are read by everyone from the chief technology officer to the developer.

These employees play a key role in implementing efficient technical solutions and are looking for a strong understanding of how your technology works and how they would implement it. The more relevant details you offer, the better they can evaluate your solution.

To obtain our average word count, we looked at the following white papers:

How long is a white paper for the C-suite?

White papers aimed at C-suite executives, including Chief Executive Officers and Chief Financial Officers, are typically 2,980 words long. For this category, the word count of our sample white papers ranged from 1,217 to 4,735.

Average length of a white paper for a C-suite audience

This average may seem low, especially when compared to the typical white paper length (3,000 to 6,000 words) mentioned earlier. However, keep in mind that C-suite executives are typically looking for a big-picture understanding of how a solution can address their organization’s critical pain points while delivering the best return on investment. 

C-suite readers are less interested in the finer details that necessitate a longer word count. Instead, they prioritize high-level insights and a clear understanding of the business case for adopting new technology. 

We used the following white papers to identify the average word count for white papers aimed at C-suite executives:

How long is a white paper for employees in marketing, sales, operations and administration?

White papers aimed at a non-technical audience (including marketing, sales, operations and administration employees) have a relatively short average length of 1,975 words. The white papers that we examined for this category ranged from 881 to 2,674 words long.

Average length of a white paper for a marketing, sales and operational audience

Keep in mind that managers are engaged in day-to-day operations and seek solutions to pressing challenges. They also have firsthand experience with any problems they need solutions for—and realize how important it is to solve the problem. 

Given their background, employees are looking for practical insights and actionable strategies to enhance performance. While they still value informative content, they greatly appreciate short white papers that deliver concrete recommendations that improve their team’s workflow.

We looked at the following white papers to determine the average word count of a white paper for employees in marketing, sales, operations and administration:

Downside of a short white paper

While brevity has its benefits, there are significant downsides to producing a white paper that’s too short. A shorter white paper may fail to deliver sufficient value to readers, especially if your competitors offer comprehensive white papers. Providing less value than others can put you at a significant disadvantage in readers’ eyes. 

Additionally, it can be challenging to cram all necessary information into a condensed format. When you cut excessively, you risk leaving readers with unanswered questions or coming across as uninspiring (not-so-fun fact: 38% of B2B buyers have found some content marketing assets to be “too generic”).

When readers download a white paper, they expect in-depth analysis and actionable recommendations—not surface-level information. By skimping on content for the sake of a reduced word count, you risk disappointing your audience and missing out on the opportunity to engage them.

A few final thoughts on white paper length

When you begin to create a white paper, you need to carefully think about its ideal length. 

Remember, your white paper’s topic and target audience should inform the target length. Longer white papers may provide more in-depth insights for technical audiences, while shorter ones can cater to the different needs of C-suite executives and employees. 

That said, the averages that we mentioned above are not hard-and-fast rules. If your topic requires a shorter- or longer-than-average word count, it is better to write a high-quality white paper than to use filler text or skip important topics. Just be aware of reader expectations. At the end of the day, your white paper length should be tailored to your audience and their needs.

Need help writing your white paper?

Our experienced content writers are happy to write your next white paper. Check out our white paper writing service for more information.

« back to all posts
Avatar photo
Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

Back to Top