Memo Definition, Purpose and Writing Tips

A memorandum, also known as a memo, is a brief message or record that is used for internal communication in business sphere. Hand-written memos use has reduced greatly with the emergence of email and other kinds of electronic messaging. But clear memos writing skill can serve you greatly in creating internal business emails, which usually have a similar purpose.

What is a Memo?

First, you should get a clear answer to the question: what is a memo? Simply put, it is a note addressed to a group of people that tells them to do something or informs them of a new policy. Most often, memos are sent as emails and can replace the need of having a meeting about a certain subject that could be explained in a memorandum.

Now, when you know the memorandum definition, let’s look at the examples of reasons to send it. Memos are usually used to quickly tell to the big audience short but important information, like policy additions, procedural changes, meeting schedules, etc. A memo can be sent out by an IT guy to remind others about the update of passwords, by a CEO to explain the new bonus policy, by a VP to tell their division that they have to meet certain numbers, etc.

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Characteristics of Good and Bad Memos

Sometimes, memos might become too long and boring, therefore they can waste much time and cause people to hate reading future ones. This is definitely a characteristic of a bad memo. Also, bad memos tend to have super long headers and too long body of text, which is difficult to read. Bad memorandums often speak in a boring tone and include many unnecessary details. And the worst thing of a bad memo is that its main point is not immediately obvious.

An effective memorandum has to be brief, concise, highly organized, and forehanded. It must foresee and answer all reader’s questions. Also, it should not include unnecessary or confusing information. A good memo reminds from the very first section what action the reader should take. Its main message is brief and to-the-point. Therefore, to produce an effective memo, you just have to stay focused, clear and brief, yet complete.

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Memorandum Format

The memorandum format is quite simple. Start with the basic information: to whom your memo is addressed, the date and the subject. Begin writing the body with a clear purpose, then state what the readers have to know right away, and conclude with what the readers should do, if needed.

You should keep in mind that the employees sometimes just skim the memos. Therefore, it is recommended to use brief paragraphs, headings and lists, which are “points of entry” for the eye and provide the opportunity to refer back quickly to the needed part of the text. Make sure to proofread your memo aloud so that you could easily detect awkward sentences, repetitions and dropped words.

Tips on Writing an Effective Memo

By now, you should not ask the question: what is a memorandum? So here are several tips of producing an effective memo.

Ensure Your Request Is Easy-to-Understand

Many memos tend to be long, boring, and by the end the reader does not even know what the paper they’ve just read is about. So ask yourself first whether this even has to be a memo; whether it is something that can wait; if you could get the reader to take just one action after reading this, what would it be? If you face difficulties with answering these questions, think again whether you should send this text. Remember that needless memorandums take up time, cause disappointments and add more work to already busy employees. So ensure the memorandum is definitely necessary before you send it out.

Get the Essential Information Right Away and Briefly

Some memos have too long headers, which are hard to read. Actually, the header is often not so important, so think about minimizing the amount of space, which it takes. Also, keep in mind that many people read messages on different devices like tablets and smart phones, and if the header of your memo is too long, they will have to scroll a lot to see the essential information.

Convey All the Information in the Minimum of Text

Now when you know how to define a memorandum, you probably know the exact action that must be taken by the readers of your memo. So get to this action part right away. Avoid adding unnecessary comments and using large words to appear smart. Just get straight to the point.

Restate and Bold the Action which Has to Be Taken at the End

At the end of your memo, replicate exactly what is needed from the readers. You will be surprised with how simply restating what you want from people at the end will increase the amount of people who take action.

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If there is no Need to Take Action, Tell Them

You can save much time for everybody, if something needs no action. Simply write at the end of the memorandum: “No action required.”

So now, when you know how to create a good memorandum, just check again the following things before sending it:

  • The action you are requesting is worthy of writing an entire memorandum
  • The shorter and clearer its header is, the better
  • You get to the point straight away (reread the text once more and exclude needless chatter)
  • The last sentence of the memorandum says exactly what action needs to be taken (or that there is no need to take action)
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