Memo Writing Notes
Memos are used within organizations to communicate everything from routine details to
complete proposals and reports. Memos are often only a few short paragraphs, but they can
be much longer, depending on their purpose. Here are some typical uses of memos:
• to inform others about new or changed policy, procedures, organizational details
• to announce meetings, events, changes
• to present decisions, directives, proposals, briefings
• to transmit documents (internal)
Company and/or department name (without address)
To (who gets it)
From (who sent it)
Subject (what it’s about)
Date (when it was sent)
Body (conveys message)
Concise: Make your sentences, paragraph, and overall memo as brief and as
focused as possible.
Clear: Get your purpose straight before you start, then plan what you want to say
and in what order. Use your memo layout to help your reader (headings, bulleted
lists, white space, as appropriate).
Direct: Speak directly to your reader, as you would in person or on the phone. Do
not pad your ideas with unnecessary details. Think of what questions your reader
wants answered, and then answer them.
Clean: Reread, revise, copyedit, and proofread.
Subject Line: Summarizes the main idea; think of it as being preceded by the words "This
memo is about."
Introductory paragraph: Quickly orients the reader to what the memo is about.
Give your purpose for writing.
Supply any relevant background information.
Identify any task the memo is related to.
Body: Conveys the information and supporting details relevant to the memo's purpose
Keep paragraphs short and focused; one main idea per paragraph.
Keep sentences tight and informative
Use bullets to list information
Close: End courteously (think of a phone call or face-to-face meeting), stating any expected
outcome, action, or other information appropriate to your purpose. For example,
“Please send me your comments and suggestions by January 16.”
"Let's meet next week to go over the next stage in the plan."
Writing Your Own Memo
Analyze your audience. Decide to whom you are writing this memo (the audience) and what the
audience’s priorities and concerns are. Establish why this memo would be important to the
Write the heading segment. The heading segment should include to whom the memo is written,
who has written the memo, the complete and exact date the memo was written, and the subject
matter (what the memo is about). A sample heading would look like:
To: Name and job title of the recipient
From: Your name and job title
Date: Complete date when the memo was written
Subject: (or RE:) What the memo is about (highlighted in some way)
Always address readers by their correct name; do not use nicknames.
When constructing the heading, be sure to double space between sections and align the text.
Write the opening segment. State the purpose of the memo and identify the purpose in three
parts: the context of the problem, the particular assignment, and the purpose of the memo.
Identify the exact reason for writing the memo and make it clear to the reader.
If you are having trouble describing what you are doing to solve the problem (the task statement),
consider whether you have clarified the situation.
Include only as much information as is needed, while still being convincing that a real problem
Include a summary segment. This segment should provide a brief statement of important
suggestions. This will help the reader quickly understand the key points of the memo. The
summary can also include links or references to sources that you have used in your research on
Expand in the discussion segment.In this segment, include all of the details that support your
ideas and recommendations for solving the problem. You may also choose to propose future
problems that may arise and discuss how your recommendations ensure these problems will not
occur (see tips).
Begin the discussion with the information that is most important.
Start with the most general information and move to specific or supporting facts.
Finish with a closing segment. Close the memo with a friendly ending that states what actions
you want the reader to take. Consider the ways that the reader can benefit from the information
in the memo and how these changes will be advantageous.
Be sure to consider how the reader will benefit from the desired actions and how you can make
those actions easier. You might say, "I will be glad to discuss these recommendations with you
later on and follow through on any decisions you make."
Close with a call to action. If there is something you want the reader to do by a particular time,
Review for spelling, grammar, and content errors. Pay particular attention to names, dates, or
numbers. Be consistent in the type of language you use.
Get personal. Use words like "I," "you," and "we." To initiate action, write in active voice.
Be conversational. Write the way you talk and do not be afraid to use contractions.
Don't show off. Avoid scholarly words and technical jargon.
Avoid "smothered" words: Simple root words with fancy endings tacked on. Favorites are "tion,"
"ance," "ent," "ment," "ize," and "ility." Example: Don't say, "The continuation of our issuance of
incentives is dependent upon the prioritization by employees of company objectives." Instead,
say, "If you want to keep getting incentives, meet company goals."
Keep paragraphs short. Limit each paragraph to five lines or less.
Don't give too many whys. It's important to explain why you want something done, but don't
Include only as much information as necessary for the reader; be concise but convincing that the
problem or issue does exist and needs to be assessed.
Write short headings that clarify the content of each category. For example, instead of stating
"opening," write "Ant problem in the office." Be specific and brief in every heading so that the
basic point of your memo is apparent to the reader right away.
Feel free to include lists, charts, and graphs at the end of the memo to help the reader better
understand the topic. Make sure to add a notation of how the attachments are relevant.