How to write memos

a tutorial, guidance notes, and explanation

What are memos?

The term memo is short for ‘memorandum’. Their purpose is to give information in a brief form.

Memos can be seen as notes, very brief letters, or micro-reports.

A memo is usually very short – a few lines or paragraphs at the most.

Some memos are even distributed on slips of paper.

Organisations usually have a recognisable form and layout for all internal memos.

Most memos are notices which pass between colleagues, sometimes within departments or to other departments or other sites.

The Internet has become a very popular medium for the memo. This is probably due to its brief format. Email messages can be seen as electronic memos in most business instances.

Memos

Memos should have a main heading stating the subject of the message, and sub-headings which lead into the message sections.

Memos usually bear the generic heading ‘MEMO’ at the top of the page. This acts as an advanced organiser so that the recipient is in no doubt of the document type and function.

The information in a memo should be set out in order of importance, with the most important item listed first.

Remember that effective business communication operates on the ‘punchline first’ principle. [It is only in a whodunit story or a narrative joke that we appreciate the withholding of vital information.]


Memos – the content

A memo should always contain the following information.

  • The subject of the memo
  • The name of the sender
  • The name of the recipient(s)
  • The date of posting
  • The message itself

Memos – types

There are various types of memo. These are the most commonly used.

  • Information
  • Announcement
  • Update

Information memos

An information memo provides information that is relevant to the recipient, or it replies with information that has been requested. The memo subject is stated in the title.

MEMO

SUBJECT
DATE
TO
FROM
Quote for Budget Projections
18 February 2006
J. Brown, Training Manager
G. Thwaite

Background

You requested a quote from a printer to use in your budget projections on the current project.

Quote

The cost for printing 1000 brochures in the dimensions you cited will be approximately £2,000.

Source
I obtained this information from Streamline Printers.

Scheduling
Though you did not ask about scheduling, the information manager of Streamline printers stated unequivocally that you must allow three weeks from the date of delivery of camera-ready copy.


Announcement memos

A meeting announcement memo is one sent by an individual or department to other individuals, departments, or company representatives to advise them of a forthcoming meeting.

These usually contain the date and agenda of the meeting, although, they may simply announce the date.

MEMO

SUBJECT
DATE
TO
FROM
Meeting about Sundeal Hotels
21 March 2001
Members of the Executive Committee
D. Henderson, Chair of Neatfit

Purpose
This meeting will consider a joint venture between Belsize Amusement Parks and Sundeal Hotels.

Time
The meeting will be held on 26 March at 9.30 am.

Place
The Board Room has been booked and refreshments will be served.

Agenda
The meeting will include two sessions.

General session (10.00 am to 12.00 am)

  • introductions of board members
  • AAAP Presentation
  • financial summary
  • questions and discussion

Executive session (1.15pm to 4.00 pm)

  • fiscal status Sundeal Hotels
  • decisions and recommendations

Confirmation
Please confirm your attendance by contacting Mary Golding Ext. 234

Attachments
The following documents are attached:

  • AAAP Annual Report
  • financial summary
  • preliminary paper on Joint Venture

Update memos

Update memos are notes which are transmitted between colleagues on a regular or frequent basis.

Because of the nature of the relationship of the authors, these are often quite brief and informal.

These are the sort of office communications that are now largely conducted via email messages.

MEMO

SUBJECT
DATE
TO
FROM
Help me out!
12 March 1999
Jean
Sally

Quick! I need a list of all our products containing Zinc.

Sorry to dump on you like this but it’s more than my job’s worth to miss the deadline. (Tues)

Let’s have a coffee later in the week.


MEMO

SUBJECT
DATE
TO
FROM
Staff Outing
19 December 2012
Brian
Trevor

Hi

I went to the Steering Group meeting yesterday and the subject of the staff outing came up.

Could you let me have some ideas for a venue and flesh it out with a bit of detail?

Alton Towers was suggested but I’d prefer something more adult myself.

Cheers,

T


MEMO

SUBJECT
DATE
TO
FROM
Interview Panel
12 October 2013
Brenda
Geoff

Dear Brenda

Glad to tell you you’re on the interview panel for the new PA job.

Interviews start at 9-30 next Weds. I’ve sent you the CVs of those shortlisted and hope you have time to go through them in time.

Wear your best frock and put them through their paces.

See you then

G

© Roy Johnson 2014


Writing skills links

Red button Improve your Writing Skills

Red button Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

Red button The Economist Style Guide


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