According to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL), memos are written to highlight or resolve problems. Northern Kentucky University’s School of Business declares that memos should communicate a lot of information in limited space. How a memo is formatted depends on the company, the purpose of the memo and the memo recipients. Internal staff memos may provide information, analysis and conclusions, information about business hours or instructions for the proper use of equipment.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Pen and pencils
Learn the basic purpose and format of a memo. Memos are usually internal documents used to communicate to staff. Purposes may include policy reminders, action requests, reporting a change or providing official notification. The memo format includes a heading, introduction, body, summary and closing. Attachments are noted at the bottom of the document.
Determine the purpose of your memo and which, if any, attachments will be included.
Determine the recipients of the memo. Often, supervisors and managers receive copies of memos and there may be a requirement to include a copy in a file. Determine what the memo will say and compose a rough draft. Check on company policy for using letterhead that is approved for memos.
Complete the heading, beginning with the “Date.” Include names and titles of primary recipients in the “To” section. This may be one or more persons, or it may specify a group of people, such as all account managers. Include in the “cc” section the names and titles of those who will receive copies of the memo. Include in the “From” section the name and title of the person sending the memo. Include in the “Subject” section a short title describing the purpose of the memo.
Include an introductory paragraph that explains the purpose of the memo, provides background for the purpose and gives an overview of what will follow in subsequent paragraphs. Include an alert for readers if the memo contains policy or other critical information.
Include information in the body, or main text, of the memo that expands on the introduction and overview. For instance, provide the background leading up to a policy change. Separate and order the paragraphs according to content. Use brief paragraphs throughout the memo. This section may be one or two paragraphs or several pages, depending on the purpose of the memo.
Insert the summary and closing. The summary may not be necessary for one-page memos, but it may be helpful with long documents containing complex information or instructions. Close by thanking the reader and offering your help in answering questions or explaining the memo content. In the absence of a summary, include a brief summary in the closing paragraph. Inform readers if the memo contents are confidential.
Note at the end of the memo a list of attachments mentioned in the memo. Use the words “Attached” or “Enclosed” to denote the list of attachments. Do not include attachments that are not referenced in the memo.
Sign the memo. Memo writers usually initial or sign memos in the heading section, next to the “From” entry. A formal memo might require a full signature and dateline at the end of the document.
Tips and warnings
- Review copies of company memos to learn the style and formatting. Ask whether approval is required to send a memo. Verify all factual information before including it in the memo. Ask someone to proofread your memo.
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