A memo (also known as a memorandum, or reminder) is used for internal communications regarding procedures or official business within an organization. Unlike an email, a memo is a message sent to a large group of employees, like to the entire department or everyone at the company. One might need to write a memo to inform staff of upcoming events or broadcast internal changes.
A business memo is a short document used to transmit information within an organization. Memos are characterized by being brief, direct, and easy to navigate. They are less formal than letters but should maintain a professional, succinct style. Often, the purpose of a business memo is twofold: to identify a problem and propose a solution. Other times, memos may provide or request factual information. Business memos are designed to accommodate busy readers who want to find the information they need from the memo quickly and easily. In writing a business memo, one should structure the memo to accommodate three kinds of readers:
- Those who read only the executive summary
- Those who skim the entire memo for its key points and a few details they’re interested in
- Those who read the entire document for the details that support its major claims or recommendations
Structure of a Memo
Part 1: HEADER
In the header, clearly label the content “Memorandum” so that the readers know exactly what they’re receiving. Then, include “TO”, “FROM”, “DATE”, and “SUBJECT”. This information is relevant for providing the content.
TO: provide the names and titles of everyone who will receive the memo
FROM: provide sender’s complete name and title
DATE: provide the complete and accurate date – don’t forget to include the year
SUBJECT: provide a brief, yet specific description of what the memo is about
Part 2: MESSAGE
explain the purpose
The purpose of a memo is usually found in the opening paragraph and includes the purpose of the memo, the context and problem, and the specific assignment or task. Before indulging the reader with details and the context, give the reader a brief overview of what the memo will be about. Choosing how specific the introduction will depend on the memo plan style. The more direct the memo plan, the more explicit the introduction should be. Including the purpose of the memo will help clarify the reason the audience should read this document. The introduction should be brief: approximately the length of a short paragraph.
addresses the information required
In the first paragraph, quickly and clearly state the purpose of the memo. Begin the sentence with the phrase, “I’m writing to inform you … ” or “I’m writing to request … “. A memo is meant to be short, clear, and to the point. Deliver the most critical information upfront, and then use subsequent paragraphs as opportunities to dive into more detail.
In the second paragraph, provide context or supporting evidence. For instance, let’s say the memo is informing the company of an internal re-organization. If this is the case, paragraph two should say something like, “As our company continues to grow, we’ve decided it makes more sense to separate our video production team from our content team. This way, those teams can focus more on their individual goals.”
In the third paragraph, include the specific request of each employee — if planning a team outing, this is the space to include, “Please RSVP with dietary restrictions,” or “Please email me with questions.”On the contrary, if the memo is informing staff of upcoming construction to the building, it might say, “I’d appreciate your cooperation during this time.” Even if there isn’t any specific action expected from employees, it’s helpful to include how they’ll handle the news and to expect them to do something in response to the memo.
After the reader has absorbed all of your information, close with a courteous ending that states what action the reader is expected to take. Make sure to consider how the reader will benefit from the desired actions and how those actions can be made easier. For instance, “I will be glad to discuss this recommendation with you during our Tuesday trip to the spa and follow through on any decisions you make.”
Make sure to document the findings or provide detailed information whenever necessary. This can be done by attaching lists, graphs, tables, etc. at the end of the memo. Be sure to refer to the attachments in the memo and add a notation about what is attached below the closing, like this:
Attached: Focus Group Results, January- May 2007
To: All Staff
Date: July 18, 2018
Subject: NewTech Software Issues
It has come to my attention that many employees are having trouble using our recently acquired NewTech sales management software because it currently creates duplicate client entries. Some of you have stopped using the system altogether. We want this software to help you do your jobs better, not to take up more time. Therefore, it is fine to hold off using it until we resolve the technical issues with the NewTech staff.