Management Tips

Writing Memorandums (memo) Based on DeeAnene Kirsch-man

A memorandum (or memo) is just the place to abstain from wordiness! Its sole per pose is to serve as a short, informal, written business communication-to briefly outline a particular situation, transaction or agreement. It also helps you keep track of your business dealing by providing a paper trail. And, although paper memos (hard copies) have become practically obsolete in the age of advanced technology, electronic memos are widely used. They still serve the same purpose: They are used for policy statements, informal reports, company announcements, or directives.

Memos have long been referred to as in-house correspondence because they are usually informal documents sent between employees who work within the same company. But memos today are now also sent between associates, both in and out of your company. Just remember this: Wherever your memo is sent, or however informal it is, you still need to follow standard business writing guidelines.

Just as with any other form correspondence, you should think about what you want to write before writing it-and always remember your audience.. you should also watch your spelling and grammar (use those spell-check and grammar check options in your computer system if you have them, but also remember to proofread it yourself because they don’t always catch everything), and be mindful of your tone. And, never forget that you at work-always maintain professionalism.

A memo can be sent to just one person, or it can be distributed to a very large number of people, depending on who needs to read it. So, measure your level of familiarity in your writing by the relationship between you and your reader. Be personable, yet not presumptuous-and, as always, be careful with your words. Above all else, be clear!

Memo Characteristics

Memos are…

  • Concise
  • Less formal than business letters
  • In-house correspondence-memos are written to share information between employees from the same company, or sometimes an employee from another firm with whom you work closely
  • Not typed on company letterhead


  • Have two common formats: paper note, standard (includes electronic)
  • Have no inside address, salutation, or complementary closing
  • Don’t have to provide background information-the writer doesn’t usually have to explain background because the reader generally already knows the basics. The exception is report memos, which usually include some sort of background or description of a situation
  • Provide evidence of conversations and meetings

In memos…

  • There is wide use of bullets and numbers
  • Jargon is okay because they are for in-house use and are less formal
  • Standard writing rules apply-follow all of the basic writing rules, such as watching tone, grammar, spelling, and layout

Parts of a Memo

There are fewer parts of a memo than there are of a letter. But, with the exceptions of the heading and the body, many of the fundamentals are the same:

Heading: This is the opening of the memo. It includes the date, the name of the recipient, the name of the sender, and the subject of your memo. The key difference from a letter heading is that a memo does not include a salutation.

Body: The body of a memo follows the same rules as the body of a letter. The only difference is that, because a memo does not include a salutation, the body starts two lines after the subject line.

Enclosure: This indicates that you have included additional paperwork in your correspondence. You can use the word enclosure. It is placed two lines beneath the reference initials. By adding an “enclosure’ line, you are not only providing a courtesy to your reader, but you are ensuring that the extra information you are sending does not get overlooked.

Filename: This references a file name, and is placed two lines beneath the last notation. You do not need to include the word Reference in this information.

Delivery: this is used when your document requires special handling. It is placed two lines below the last notation.

cc: This tells your reader who else is being sent a copy of your letter. You can preface the information with either cc, or with the word distribution, if the letter is being sent to more than three or four readers. It is placed flush left, and is two lines below the last notation.

Continuation Page: this is any page after the first page of a document. Whatever you do, do not put the word continued on the first page-your reader will deduce that fact when they turn to page two. Information included in this portion is as follows: the addresses name, the date, and the page number. You should put this information at the top left corner of each page, flush left. 

Memo Formats

Paper Note Memo Format

This is the typical ‘from the desk of …”paper memo, and despite the onslaught of computer-generated correspondence in today’s workforce, it is still widely used. This handwritten memo style is quick, personal, and serves a dual purpose: ut shows your reader that you care enough to send a personal note, and it is also spares both you and your reader from having to spend one more moment reading yet another e-mail.

A note memo should only be a few sentences long at the most, and is also used only for very informal correspondence. You wouldn’t want to handwrite an entire report for a client for example, just to make it seem more personal. Use your good, old-fashioned computer for that.

Standard Memo Format

The standard memo format has been around for a long time, and it is still in full use, and now, with the development of computer software programs, a variety of memo templates have been made available for today’s workforce. So, unless your company is very particular about the memo style you use, you can safely choose from any of the templates in your word processing program.

in standard memo format, you can organize the body of your memo in whatever way gets your message across clearly and simply. Typical formatting tools include bullets, numbers, subheadings, or just plain text. Whatever memo format you use, be sure to include the date, a “to” and a “from”, names of all people receiving a copy, and the subject for essay reference.

One major difference between standard paper memos and e-mail memos is length: paper memos can be longer, while e-mail memos should be kept as short as possible to make it easier on the eyes of the reader.

Memo Reports

Although the word report usually connotes a lengthy, detailed document, the fact is that a report can come in all shapes and sizes. It can be big or small, short or long, and it can be written in a variety of formats: letter, memo, transmittal, company fill-in forms, credit, or progress are a few examples.

Bigger, more formal reports generally include an executive summary, a statement of purpose, relevant data, formulas, tables, graphs, charts, procedures, conclusions, recommendations, and subsequent steps-anything and everything that will help your case. Reports of this magnitude should not be sent casually as an attachment in a random e-mail. Reserve these for a planned meeting, for example, where everyone can sit face to face and examine the details together.

The smaller, everyday memo reports that are used in a million ways every day can include some of the same elements as their larger counterparts, such as tables, charts, graphs, and so on. But, unless that kind of supporting evidence can be contained in about a two page memo, it should either be sent as an attachment, or as a web page reference.