White papers can be a powerful part of your content marketing strategy

They give you plenty of space to provide valuable, in-depth problem-solving content to your audience. This establishes your expertise in your readers’ eyes and convinces them to give up their contact information, which you can put to use in your marketing campaigns. 

However, while marketers or writers may be familiar with white papers, there can be confusion about how best to back up claims within the text. Should they provide sources at the bottom of each page (footnotes)? Or would it be better to relegate references to the end of the white paper (endnotes)?

This article will clear things up. Apart from helping you choose between white paper endnotes and footnotes, we’ll also guide you on how to use both. You’ll also see how to format endnotes and footnotes.

White Paper Footnote

White paper footnotes can be powerful if you have strong research you want to highlight. Footnotes are also a better choice if you want to give your white paper a more academic look – recommended if your target audience is academic or familiar with formal white papers.

However, if the main goal of your white paper is to generate leads, you’d be better off avoiding footnotes. Non-scholarly readers are almost always put off by pages with ribbons of tiny type at the end. Even worse, a string of footnotes might end up distracting readers from your content. 

Pros
  • Highlights your research.
  • Tells the reader you’ve invested time and effort.
Cons
  • Distracts the reader from the main content.
  • Makes the white paper look academic.

White Paper Endnote

While using strong, credible sources is a major white paper best practice, white paper endnotes can be useful if your sources are weak, since they will be buried at the end of the document. Few readers will bother reading the endnotes page, therefore letting weaker sources off the hook. 

The invisibility of endnotes also lets your readers focus more on the meat of your text. This makes it easy for your content to stand out and gain your audience’s attention – your primary goal when using white papers for lead generation.

Pros
  • Doesn’t distract readers.
  • Helps hide weak sources.
Cons
  • Buries your research where most of your audience won’t see it.

How to use footnotes in a white paper?

This image demonstrates how to use white paper footnotes in Microsoft Word.
How to insert footnotes in Microsoft Word

There are multiple ways you can use footnotes in a white paper:

At the end of the clause: Provided you are going to place the footnote at the end of the clause,¹ make sure you insert the number after the comma.

At the end of the sentence: If you’re going to insert the footnote at the end of the sentence, add the number after the full stop.¹

After the punctuation marks: If you’re going to reference what someone else said, add the number after the punctuation (i.e., “Mr. X said that Mr. Y …” ¹)

How to use endnotes in a white paper?

This image shows how to insert white paper endnotes using Microsoft Word.
How to insert endnotes in Microsoft Word

The notations for endnotes are the same as footnotes. Make sure to consecutively number the endnotes using the three ways described above (i.e., at the end of the clause, at the end of the sentence, after the punctuation). 

How to format footnotes and endnotes?

Footnotes and endnotes can be formatted in three different styles. They include APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and the Chicago Manual of Style. Each of them allows you to refer to the source of the claim made in the text. You can also use any of the three styles to provide explanatory comments that, if included in the main text, might interrupt the flow.

Which Is Better?

For the purpose of using a white paper as a lead magnet, endnotes are the better option. This is because they are relegated to the last page of the white paper and cannot distract your reader’s attention away from the main text, something footnotes have the potential to do.

See also: The Complete Guide To Creating A White Paper (the right way)

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