Advice on How to Write a Memo
A memorandum (commonly known as a memo) is a very convenient way to disseminate important information in a clear and concise manner. It is frequently used in business and government settings. Memos get straight to the point by highlighting important issues and offering recommendations. This is especially important when a high-level executive or government official lacks the time to read through a lengthy report.
If you do not know how to write a memo, look through some memo samples and continue reading this article since it will offer some sound advice on proper memo writing. The memo template is universal regardless of the field or target audience, so if you know how to write a memo then you recognize that it always follows a specific format. As with any type of writing, if you know how to write a memo essay well, you will succeed at informing your intended audience. Likewise, if you fail to follow the proper principles, the reader will have no idea what you are trying to say. As you go about writing your memo, it is important to understand its purpose.
- First, consider who you are addressing. Are you writing to a superior? A specific department within an office? Knowing who you are writing to will allow for proper tone.
- Second, think about what is your memo trying to accomplish? For example, has there been a change in company policy that employees need to be aware of? Have you attended an important government meeting and need to inform the higher ups about what you learned?
These are relatively easy steps and if you can continue to follow them, in the long run you will always know how to write a memo with purpose.
Memo Writing Guide
Once you have determined who you are addressing and the purpose of the memo, the next step of filling in the heading should be relatively easy. In a nutshell, the heading informs the reader about the document is about, who it's addressed to, who wrote it, the date that it was sent out, and the subject.
Here is the heading layout that almost all memos follow:
You want to immediately get to the meat of the matter since you should assume that your boss or colleagues do not have an entire afternoon to read a full report.
Keep the main text clear and simple. Within the first sentence, the reader should already understand what you are saying. Start by restating the subject of the memo in sentence form. The transition from the subject line to the opening paragraph should be seamless. Just like the thesis statement of an essay, you will set the tone for the entire memo by writing a clear statement regarding the intent of the memo.
The first paragraph should essentially tell the audience what they are going to read. The subsequent paragraphs should built off of this by providing further detail.
Short and sweet is key. Your paragraphs should not exceed six lines. You want the memo to be easy to read and you certain do not want them dozing off by getting too deep into the details.
As a rule, memos rarely exceed one page. Of course, from time to time there are exceptions, especially if you are writing a lengthy policy memo in which covering a lot of topics is unavoidable. In any event, do not remove any essential information just for the sake of shortening your memo. But at the same time, keeping it brief and only including what they need to know is important.
Also keep in mind that keeping the memo brief doesn't mean you should rush everything. You still want it to make sense and read in a clear manner. You also want to avoid using technical words or informal slang. Who you are addressing matters in terms of tone. For instance, if you are writing to your boss, you will want to be deferential to some degree. On the other hand, if you are a supervisor who is informing subordinates about a major change in the offer, you might need to project a sense of authority.
If your memo contains data or references, you will need to cite them the same way that you would source an academic paper. Make sure to include a reference page for all outside sources.
Editing and Proofreading
If your memo is full of lazy typos or grammar mistakes, nobody in the office is going to take it seriously. This is especially a concern if you are a supervisor who is leading a department! Look over your memo before submitting it, but give yourself a bit of a break before doing so. Ask a colleague or peer to give it a read. Once it looks polished and professional, you are ready to send it out!
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