Business Writing Tip #109—The Memo

A memo is a document that is either used to:

  • Communicate policies, procedures or some other official business within an organisation, or
  • Persuade or ask someone to do something.

Memo Contents

Header:

TO: (readers’ names and job titles)

FROM: (your name and job title)

DATE: (complete and current date)

SUBJECT: (a brief, meaningful description of what the memo is about)

Message:

  1. Introduction—the purpose of the memo, the context and problems, and a specific assignment or task if there is one. Gives the reader a brief overview of what the memo will be about. Usually the length of a short paragraph (a few lines).
  2. Body—includes the major information points. Start with the context; that is the background to the problem you are solving. State the problem.
  3. Task—describe what you are doing to address the problems. If you have been asked to look into something you could start with, “You asked that I look at …”, or if you want to explain something, “To determine the best way ahead, I will …” This information focuses on the information the decision-maker needs, or the information that your staff need to know.
  4. Discussion—this is the longest part of the memo and includes all the details to support your ideas, for example the supporting ideas, facts and research that back up your argument. Begin with the most important information (this might be your key findings or recommendations).

Closing:

Close the memo by stating what action you want the reader to take. If it is a longish memo (more than one page) you might include a brief summary.

Memo Layout

As with any other business writing you want to make your memo easy for your reader to read, so use headings, lists and white space. Make your headings specific. For example if you are making recommendations about marketing, use “New Marketing Recommendations” rather than “Summary”.

sample memo

*Sample Business Memo taken from:

Brown, K. G., and Barton, D.J.  (n.d.).  Brief guide to business writing.  Retrieved March, 2014, from http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/faculty/kbrown/writing.html

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