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Writing memosBIOINF 2202: Dental Informatics SeminarInstructors: Titus Schleyer, Heiko Spallek
Why learn about writing memos?• important form of corporate  communication• clear and concise communication of  complex su...
Purpose of a memo• “solve problems” by:   – informing   – persuading   – refuting   – arguing   – analyzing   –…• Recipien...
General rules• keep your audience in mind• follow a structure (see below)• follow an outline• get to the point early• revi...
Memo plan                               }                     Header                                                     S...
Header• To:                      recipient (individuals and/or                           groups)• From:                   ...
Subject line• probably the most important part of your  memo• summarize the intent of your memo, e.g.:   – “Request for as...
Opening paragraph• complete summary of your memo• provide:   – context   – task/action/request   – summary of the rest of ...
Supporting details/explanation• maintain a global structure, such as  findings  implications  action items• arrange fact...
Closing• If necessary, summarize what you want  recipient(s) to do.• Provide clear instructions, including  deadlines wher...
In-class exercise 1: Critique a                  memoReview Institutional Advancement Memo –Version 1 for compliance with ...
Writing style“It now appears that obligatory obfuscation is afirm tradition within the medical profession. …[Medical writi...
More about writing style“There are times when the more the authorsexplain, the less we understand. Apescertainly seem capa...
Example  Our lack of data prevented evaluation of  state actions in targeting funds to areas in  need of assistance. Beca...
Clarity: Actions• Use subjects to name your central  characters.• Express their most important actions as  verbs.  Center ...
Verb  Noun = NominalizationExamples:discover                               discoveryresist                             ...
How to fix it• Diagnosis• Analysis• Revision (J. Williams, Style, p. 54, 55) Center for Dental Informatics University of P...
Please fix:  The agency conducted an investigation into  the matter. The agency investigated the matter.  There was first...
Use characters as your subjects• A character is whatever entity you can tell  a story about, such as:   – you   – the scho...
Active vs. passive voiceChoose the passive voice when you don’tknow who did it, your readers don’t carewho did it, or you ...
Example Those who are found guilty can be fined. Once the design was publicized, it was  widely adopted.  Center for Den...
A style that seems complex …• may be necessary to express complex  ideas precisely.• may gratuitously complicate already ...
Cohesion• Move from old information to new.• Arrange topics in a logical order.• Start sentences with ideas that you have ...
Syntactic complexity• In general, readers best comprehend long  complex units after they have read a  relatively short and...
Example  To help in the efforts of ABCO, Inc., to develop  medical policies in regard to coverage of  employees engaged in...
Clarity, grace and concision• Delete words that mean little or nothing.• Delete words that repeat other words.• Delete wor...
HomeworkRewrite Institutional Advancement Memo –Version 2 for compliance with the guidelinesdiscussed in the lecture.  Cen...
Resources• Williams, J. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and  Grace (7th Ed.), Longman, New York, 2002• Pitt style guide:  ww...
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Writing memos

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Easy And Quick To Understand How To Write Memo

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  1. 1. Writing memosBIOINF 2202: Dental Informatics SeminarInstructors: Titus Schleyer, Heiko Spallek
  2. 2. Why learn about writing memos?• important form of corporate communication• clear and concise communication of complex subjects• writing style and approach applicable to other communications, such as email• set yourself apart from people who cannot write Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 2 of 28
  3. 3. Purpose of a memo• “solve problems” by: – informing – persuading – refuting – arguing – analyzing –…• Recipients: one person, several persons, one or more groups, a whole community Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 3 of 28
  4. 4. General rules• keep your audience in mind• follow a structure (see below)• follow an outline• get to the point early• revising is easier than writing perfectly the first time• follow style guides and writing manuals• budget between 20 min – 1 hr for most memos Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 4 of 28
  5. 5. Memo plan } Header Subject line Opening paragraph } Supporting details/explanation ClosingCenter for Dental InformaticsUniversity of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 5 of 28
  6. 6. Header• To: recipient (individuals and/or groups)• From: you/office (e.g. “Student Affairs”)/group (e.g. “Social Committee”)• CC: more recipient(s)• Date:• use correct names/designations for recipients• include titles when appropriate, for all recipients when possible Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 6 of 28
  7. 7. Subject line• probably the most important part of your memo• summarize the intent of your memo, e.g.: – “Request for assistance with grant project” – “Consequences of recent material thefts”• specific, concise and to the point Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 7 of 28
  8. 8. Opening paragraph• complete summary of your memo• provide: – context – task/action/request – summary of the rest of the memo• Best: put your intent into the first sentence Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 8 of 28
  9. 9. Supporting details/explanation• maintain a global structure, such as findings  implications  action items• arrange facts in a logical order• don’t provide more detail than necessary• use bullet points where appropriate• use correct structure bullet points (e.g. no standalone bullets) Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 9 of 28
  10. 10. Closing• If necessary, summarize what you want recipient(s) to do.• Provide clear instructions, including deadlines where applicable.• Provide further references/contact information when appropriate. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 10 of 28
  11. 11. In-class exercise 1: Critique a memoReview Institutional Advancement Memo –Version 1 for compliance with the rules justdiscussed. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 11 of 28
  12. 12. Writing style“It now appears that obligatory obfuscation is afirm tradition within the medical profession. …[Medical writing] is a highly skilled, calculatedattempt to confuse the reader. … A doctor feels hemight get passed over for an assistantprofessorship because he wrote his papers tooclearly—because he made his ideas seem toosimple.” Michael Crichton, NEJM Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 12 of 28
  13. 13. More about writing style“There are times when the more the authorsexplain, the less we understand. Apescertainly seem capably of using language tocommunicate. Whether scientists areremains doubtful.” Douglas Chadwick, NYT Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 13 of 28
  14. 14. Example Our lack of data prevented evaluation of state actions in targeting funds to areas in need of assistance. Because we lacked data, we could not evaluate whether the state had targeted funds to areas that needed assistance. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 14 of 28
  15. 15. Clarity: Actions• Use subjects to name your central characters.• Express their most important actions as verbs. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 15 of 28
  16. 16. Verb  Noun = NominalizationExamples:discover  discoveryresist  resistancedifferent  differenceproficient  proficiencyNominalization makes for a noun-heavy writingstyle that is complex and hard to understand. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 16 of 28
  17. 17. How to fix it• Diagnosis• Analysis• Revision (J. Williams, Style, p. 54, 55) Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 17 of 28
  18. 18. Please fix: The agency conducted an investigation into the matter. The agency investigated the matter. There was first a review of the evolution of the dorsal fin. First, she reviewed how the dorsal fin evolved. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 18 of 28
  19. 19. Use characters as your subjects• A character is whatever entity you can tell a story about, such as: – you – the school – the Executive Committee – the Democratic party – freedom of speech – health care costs Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 19 of 28
  20. 20. Active vs. passive voiceChoose the passive voice when you don’tknow who did it, your readers don’t carewho did it, or you don’t want them to knowwho did it. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 20 of 28
  21. 21. Example Those who are found guilty can be fined. Once the design was publicized, it was widely adopted. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 21 of 28
  22. 22. A style that seems complex …• may be necessary to express complex ideas precisely.• may gratuitously complicate already complex ideas.• may gratuitously complex simple ideas. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 22 of 28
  23. 23. Cohesion• Move from old information to new.• Arrange topics in a logical order.• Start sentences with ideas that you have already described, or with something you can safely assume the reader already knows.• Keep your topics short and reasonably consistent. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 23 of 28
  24. 24. Syntactic complexity• In general, readers best comprehend long complex units after they have read a relatively short and clear subject+verb sequence.• Place technical terms new to the reader not at the beginning, but towards the end of the sentence. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 24 of 28
  25. 25. Example To help in the efforts of ABCO, Inc., to develop medical policies in regard to coverage of employees engaged in high-risk activities, Dr. Jones has served as a medical consultant. Dr. Jones has served as a medical consultant to help ABCO, Inc., develop medical policies in regard to coverage of employees engaged in high-risk activities. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 25 of 28
  26. 26. Clarity, grace and concision• Delete words that mean little or nothing.• Delete words that repeat other words.• Delete words whose meaning the reader can infer from other words.• Replace a phrase with a word.• Change unnecessary negatives to affirmatives. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 26 of 28
  27. 27. HomeworkRewrite Institutional Advancement Memo –Version 2 for compliance with the guidelinesdiscussed in the lecture. Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 27 of 28
  28. 28. Resources• Williams, J. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace (7th Ed.), Longman, New York, 2002• Pitt style guide: www.umc.pitt.edu/umc/styleguide/contents.html• Merriam Webster’s Manual for Writers and Editors, Merriam-Webster, Inc., Springfield, MA 1998• Siegal, AM and Connolly, W. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, Random House, New York, 1999 Center for Dental Informatics University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine 28 of 28
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