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Though the definition may seem simple enough, knowing how to write a memo still requires you to follow a specific memo format. As with any form of writing, this format can be followed well or poorly. Be sure to check out our memo writing tips and memo writing examples below.
Deciding Your Audience
When beginning your memo writing, start by considering your memo's intent.
What is your memo trying to accomplish? Are you trying to inform people about a change? Are you making an announcement? Are you trying to answer a question? Though this step may seem simple, it will be helpful in the long term if you can clearly identify what purpose your memo is serving.
Next, determine your audience. Whom do you want to have read your memo? Your boss? The whole office? Or a specific department?
Knowing your audience will help you focus on making your memo helpful and clear to your readers by influencing the words you choose and the tone you use.
Choosing a Heading
Now that you have determined your memo's intent and audience, you can easily fill in the heading of your memo. Your memo's heading, quite simply, is information above the main text of the memo; it signals to the reader what the document is, to whom it is addressed, whom it is from, the date it was sent, and the subject.
Here's an example heading layout:
TO: (include the full names of the readers and their job titles)
FROM: (include your full name and job title)
DATE: (include the complete and current date)
SUBJECT: (include concise and specific information about the contents of the memo)
When writing your subject, try to give as much information in as few words as possible. Think of it as if you are writing the headline for a breaking news story; give the reader a quick and clear indication of the text that will follow.
It is important to ensure that you use the full, professional names and job titles for yourself and your readers when writing a memo. Avoid using nicknames or casual terms in your heading.
Memo Writing Format
Since you know the names or departments to which the memo is addressed, the date, and your name, the next step is to work on the body of your memo.
When working on the main text, your focus should be on simplicity and clarity. You want your reader to quickly and easily understand what you are saying. The main text consists of three essential parts: the introduction, the content (your message), and the closing.
In your first sentence, restate the subject of the memo in sentence form. The opening paragraph should flow easily from the subject line. Like a thesis statement, it should clearly state the intent of the memo, while setting the tone for the rest of the memo.
Overall, the first paragraph should explain exactly what your memo is going to be about.
Each paragraph following the introduction should build on the information provided, going into more detail about the subject you are addressing. This is the part of the memo where you provide the readers with the news, updates, and instructions that your memo is aiming to share.
Remember, when working on memo writing, keep it as short as possible. Do you ever get annoyed when the latest episode of Game of Thrones includes extended scenes of a character you don't care about? Well, that frustration isn't anything compared to a reader trying to sift through an overly long, boring memo.
Memos are typically less than one page long (though there are exceptions, and if your memo is over a page, you'll need to add a short summary statement at the end). Never cut out necessary information for the sake of making your memo shorter. Write concisely to ensure that your audience reads your memo entirely and understands it completely.
Keeping Your Message Simple and Concise
There is more to the body of a memo than just stating things succinctly. Clarity also addresses how you state ideas, which means eliminating overly technical words or jargon.
This is why it's important in memo writing to keep the intended audience in mind. If you're addressing a specific department, you can get away with using technical terms in your memo (it will probably even help them understand you better). If you're writing to the whole office, it's best to avoid terms that require a dictionary.
Additionally, to keep your memo readable, try to keep each paragraph under seven lines long. Short paragraphs are easier for your audience to read, and your audience will appreciate lots of white space on the page (or screen). Be sure to follow the rules for effective academic writing.
To help refine your memo’s message, try Scribendi’s Business Editing service.
Closing Your Memo
Once you’ve provided your readers with all the necessary information in the main text of the memo, it is time to close out the memo and sign off.
If your memo format is more than one page long, you will want to write a short summary statement at the end of the memo to consolidate all the key information into a simple and easily readable snapshot.
Even with a shorter memo, it is always good to reiterate the key takeaway information at the end to ensure that your message is received by the readers.
After you’ve summarized your message, you should close your memo with a formal sign-off (i.e., Sincerely, Best regards, Thank you), your title, and your name.
Memo Writing Tips
Here are some useful tips to help guide you as you write your next memo:
Focus on simplicity and clarity.
Restate the subject of your memo in your first sentence.
Aim to keep each paragraph under seven lines.
Keep it short. Memos are typically less than one page in length.
Eliminate jargon and overly technical words, especially when addressing a general audience.
Summarize key information and takeaways in your closing statement.
Memo Writing Example
Sometimes, when learning a new skill, it’s easiest when you see the lessons and advice in action. Here, you can see the memo format with the information filled in for a memo to a group of union members.
You can also use this memo writing example as a template for your own memo.
To: All Members of the Union #8510
From: Union Representative Dave Miller
Date: November 17, 2021
Subject: New date for contract vote
Dear Union #8510 Members,
This memo is to inform you that the date for the contract vote has been changed.
The vote, which was originally scheduled for November 24, 2021 at 4pm, has been moved to November 26, 2021 at 4pm.
This change has been made to ensure that all members are able to attend the vote.
Please arrive a few minutes prior to 4pm on November 26th, so that we can begin the vote on time.
Union Representative Dave Miller
If you’d like to see more, check out these excellent memo writing examples for some additional insights and ideas.
Your readers will only take your memo seriously if you do. If you litter your memo with typos or fill it with formatting errors and inconsistencies, your communication will lose its effectiveness.
Allow yourself some extra time to complete the task, especially while you are just learning how to write a memo. After you finish writing, take some time away from the memo (get a coffee, work on another project, or regale your coworkers with tales of your days abroad) and return to your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. Or, better yet, have a professional editor look over your writing for you.
Once you're sure the memo writing is clear, concise, and free of errors, and that the memo format is professional and correct, you're ready to send it out into the world!
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