Writing Effective Memos

Printable Version (44KB pdf)

Sample Memo

A memorandum or memo helps members of an organization communicate and share information that is relevant to people within the organization. While business letters allow members of an organization communicate with people outside the organization, memos usually contain information that affects those within a particular organization. They allow members or departments within an organization to communicate and relay information. Memos frequently address a small or large group of people, but some of the memos you write may be intended for one person.

Memos often share new information, like changes to schedules or benefits, or they may encourage the reader to take an action, such as attend a meeting or use less paper. Your aim in writing a memo is the same as with other professional correspondence: You want to quickly and effectively communicate your purpose to your reader.

When preparing to write a memo, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the memo? What will it tell its recipient(s)?

  • Why do the recipients need this information?

  • What are the most important facts that the recipients need to have?

  • Is there a change that will be occurring? If so, what is the change and when will it occur?

  • Is there an action that the recipients need to take? If so, exactly what do they need to do? How do they take this action?

  • Is there any information (contact names, numbers, URLs) they need to have in order take this action?

  • Is there any accompanying documentation (reports, forms, charts) that the recipients need? (These can be included as attachments to the memo.)

  • Why do the recipients need to take the action? What are the benefits? How will it affect them?

The text of the memo should be relatively short; one page is a good rule of thumb. While you don’t want to omit any information that the reader needs, it’s also important to keep explanations short and simple. This will increase the likelihood of getting your point across, because most people will read a short, concise memo right away. Discuss only what the reader needs to know, but include information about where to obtain additional information if necessary.

Resources