How to Write a Memo

Business memos are written to inform or request action and act like business letters written internally. It is less formal than a letter, however, this is not permission or an excuse to make common spelling and punctuation errors or you will lose credibility.

Here’s how to structure your memo. Include identifying information at the top such as “To,” “From,” “Subject,” and “Date.”

The first paragraph should be a purpose statement that can be as simple as, “The purpose of this memo is to…” Then include a brief summary of the problem or need you are writing about. In the body of the memo expand on these two themes. Close with a list of action items.

Tips on how to write a memo so that the recipient will read it include:

  • Simplify, simplify simplify. Avoid phrases such as “in order to” when “to” will work.
  • Make it short, one page if possible. People are very pressed for time and they don’t have a lot of time to read what you have written. Short sentences, even bulleted lists of points you want to make, are preferred over long, convoluted sentences that go on and on and on… you get the idea. Try breaking each sentence into about 20 words. If a sentence is too long, rewrite it to break it into two sentences. Keep the paragraphs short, too.
  • Write naturally. Write the way you would speak. This is not the time to show off a newly acquired vocabulary word and get it wrong.

Tips on how to write a memo so that the recipient will respond to it:

  • Write from the reader’s perspective.
  • Be specific. Use statistics and percentages.
  • Don’t use a lot of adjectives. You want the reader to take action based upon your memo. Therefore, action verbs and nouns should be used more than adjectives.

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