The business memo is a simple way of communicating information inside an organization. It conveys information efficiently and effectively, which can save time-consuming meetings. Writing a clear, well organized memo is a valuable business skill.
Memo is short for Memorandum. You can use either term, depending on how formal a tone you want.
Memos are used to communicate information and get results by focusing on one clear call to action. They are generally short, with one to four sentences.
Most memos use a common format. Your organization probably has printed forms for its memos. They generally follow a specific order, but the order and placement of items may vary. For example, the date may be on the right. Follow your company’s format and simple fill in the template.
A longer format might have several paragraphs but should never be longer than one page. If you need to communicate more information it is better to write a report. Memos do not require a salutation or a closing statement.
Memos are best used for:
Confirming a conversation or agreement
Changing a current work procedure
Introducing information such as policy changes
Persuading people to take an action such as attending a meeting
Presenting goals or expectations
Here are 10 tips for writing a memo that will get the action you want.
1. Audience needs: Think of the audience and their needs. This is essential in the call-to-action. For example, tell your readers how they will benefit from attending an extra meeting or how they will increase productivity by following your ideas.
2. Audience level: Consider the education, background, and company status of your readers, and write to the level that matches their needs.
3. Tone: A business memo is somewhat formal, but it’s less formal than a business letter. It won’t help you to address a group of co workers in a very formal manner. It’s fine to have a friendly tone, but still be business-like. Match your style and tone to your audience.
4. Common language: Make sure everyone understands you. If you work in a technical field, be careful about using jargon that some readers may not understand. You may want to write different versions of the same memo to people in different departments.
5. Informative subject line: This explains simply and clearly what the memo is about. Similar to a subject line in an email message, the subject line is crucial to getting people to read your memo.
6. Write the bottom-line first: The first sentence or two should give the main point. Don’t add extra information leading up to the point. Remember, this isn’t a story, it’s a business document.
7. Clear and concise: Check for extra wording; keep the memo to one page or less, and use attachments or separate summaries for additional information. Keep the memo structure simple and logical. Limit paragraphs to one idea.
8. Factual: Use a neutral or positive tone. Avoid emotionally-charged words.
9. Conclusion: If needed, add a conclusion to reaffirm or summarize the main points.
10. Formatting: Use the standard format outlined in many guides, or follow your company’s guidelines.