How to Write a Memo: A Step-by-Step Guide (+ Examples)
Understanding how to write a memo can seem daunting, right?
It’s an essential skill in the business world, but often the process is unclear.
Well, you’re in the right place.
We’re going to demystify the art of memo writing, providing actionable steps, specific examples, and a template to make it straightforward.
No more fear or confusion.
And remember, a well-written memo can change the game in your professional communication.
What is a Memorandum?
Memorandum, more commonly referred to as a ‘memo’, is a critical tool for internal communication in businesses.
It’s a succinct method of sharing important information, acting like a business letter but used within an organization.
Let’s say Jeff Bezos wanted to communicate a new policy recommendation.
He wouldn’t send a business letter to each employee, right?
Instead, he’d write a memo — an efficient, formal, yet approachable way to circulate crucial information.
9 Essential Steps to Creating a Memo
Alright, now that you’re familiar with what a memo is let’s dive into crafting one.
Here’s your very own blueprint…
Step 1: Define Your Memo’s Purpose
Before you dive headfirst into writing a memo, pause for a moment.
Ask yourself, “What’s the purpose of this memo?”
You see, a memo isn’t a one-size-fits-all tool.
It could be a confirmation memo, confirming the details of a meeting.
Perhaps it’s a request memo, seeking approval for a project. Or it could be a policy memo, informing employees about changes in company policy.
Understanding the purpose of your memo is a game changer. It gives your writing direction, ensuring your memo is focused and relevant. No more waffling or going off-topic.
Instead, every sentence you write will serve the purpose of the memo, making it more effective.
Think of it like setting a destination on your GPS before a trip.
Without it, you’d be driving aimlessly, right? Similarly, defining your memo’s purpose ensures you’re driving straight toward your goal without any unnecessary detours.
Step 2: Determine the Recipient(s)
Once you’ve defined your memo’s purpose, it’s time to identify your audience.
Now, this isn’t a mere formality — it’s a crucial part of the process. Knowing your recipient affects your language, tone, and the depth of information you include.
For example, a memo to a single colleague might be less formal than a memo to the entire company.
A memo to the marketing department will likely include industry-specific jargon that wouldn’t be appropriate in a memo to the finance team.
So, take a moment to consider your recipients.
It might feel like a minor detail, but it has a significant impact on your memo’s effectiveness.
The right tone and language will make your message resonate more with your audience, ensuring your memo is not only read but also understood and acted upon.
Step 3: Craft an Effective Subject Line
The subject line of your memo is like the cover of a book — it sets the tone for what’s to come.
It’s the first thing your recipients see, and it can make the difference between your memo being read immediately or being buried under a pile of paperwork.
An effective subject line is short and punchy. It gets straight to the point, giving the reader a clear idea of the memo’s purpose.
Let’s say you’re writing a policy memo about changing the dress code.
An effective subject line could be “Updated Dress Code Policy”.
It immediately tells the reader what to expect from the memo.
Remember, your subject line is a sneak peek of your memo.
Make it enticing and informative, and your memo is more likely to be read and taken seriously.
Step 4: Start with a Clear Opening Paragraph
Now, it’s time to dive right in. The opening paragraph is your memo’s chance to make a first impression.
It’s not dissimilar to an elevator pitch — you need to grab attention and state your case right away.
For example, let’s imagine you’re crafting a policy memo about adopting a new project management software in your department.
An effective opening could be: “This memo introduces a shift to our project management processes with the adoption of XYZ software, designed to streamline our workflow and increase productivity.”
There’s no room for ambiguity here. Your reader should grasp the memo’s main point immediately, and understand why it’s important. It’s also your opportunity to briefly highlight the benefits of what’s coming next, piquing the reader’s interest.
Step 5: Provide Necessary Background Information
This step sets the stage for the information that follows. Think of it as a brief journey into the past, explaining what led to the creation of this memo.
Using our software adoption example, the background information could mention challenges faced with the current system, feedback received, or how the idea of changing software came up.
However, be mindful not to get lost in the narrative.
The goal is to give the reader context, not an epic tale. Keep it relevant and concise.
A well-written background sets the foundation for the main points to follow and gives your reader the ‘why’ behind the memo’s ‘what’.
Step 6: Detail the Key Points
Once your reader has the context, it’s time to delve into the main event: the key points.
This part is your memo’s body, the meat in the sandwich, where you detail your most important information.
Remember, each key point should have its own short paragraph, making your memo easier to digest.
Going back to our software change memo, key points could include the reasons for the selection of the new software, the benefits expected, and the outcomes of any trial runs conducted. Each point should be distinct and focused.
One crucial tip here — imagine you’re explaining this to someone completely unfamiliar with the topic.
This encourages clarity and ensures your memo is accessible to all readers, regardless of their prior knowledge.
It’s a simple trick that can make a world of difference in effective memo writing.
Step 7: State the Required Action
No memo is complete without a clear call to action. It’s the ‘why’ of your memo — the response you want from the reader.
For example, if you’re writing a policy memo on a new attendance tracking system, your call to action might be, “Please ensure you sign in and out using the new system starting next Monday.”
The trick here is to be direct and specific.
Avoid vague language that might leave your reader confused.
Remember, ambiguity is the enemy of action.
Also, emphasize the benefits of the action to encourage compliance.
If we stick to our example, you might add, “This system will streamline attendance tracking, making it easier for all of us to manage our time effectively.”
Step 8: Close with Next Steps or Summary
After all the crucial information and required action, it’s time to wrap things up. If there are next steps to follow, such as upcoming meetings or deadlines, list them clearly.
This works like a roadmap, guiding your reader towards what they need to do after reading your memo.
On the other hand, a summary serves as a powerful tool for reinforcing your message. Think of it as a concise echo of your main points.
For instance, a summary for an official memo about a holiday office closure might look like this: “In summary, the office will be closed from December 24th to 26th for the holidays. All employees are encouraged to complete their tasks ahead of time.”
The closing also offers a chance for gratitude or encouragement.
A simple “Thank you for your cooperation,” or “We appreciate your efforts,” can work wonders in maintaining a positive work environment.
Step 9: Review & Edit
You’ve poured your thoughts into the memo, but you’re not quite finished. Now comes the editing stage — a crucial process that transforms your draft into a polished, effective communication tool.
Here, you’re looking for errors, checking the flow, and ensuring clarity.
Read your memo aloud. Does it sound natural?
Are there any long, convoluted sentences that could be simplified?
Check for spelling and grammar errors too — there’s nothing more distracting than typos in a formal memo.
Another key point is to ensure that your tone is consistent and appropriate throughout the memo. The way you address your colleagues in a team memo will be different from a memo sent to upper management.
Lastly, check that your memo adheres to the classic memo format, and that it’s professional and concise. A well-structured, error-free memo enhances your credibility and ensures your message is clear.
Template for Writing a Business Memo
To help you get started, here’s a simple and effective memo template that you can use.
Remember, it’s a guideline so feel free to tailor it to your specific needs…
FROM: Your Name
DATE: Current Date
SUBJECT: Effective and concise subject line
Opening Paragraph: Clearly state the purpose of the memo. This sets the stage and provides context.
Background Information: Provide any necessary background information relevant to the situation. Remember to keep it concise.
Key Points: Expand on the main points in separate, short paragraphs. Use bullet points for clarity and ease of reading.
Action: Clearly state the action the recipient should take after reading the memo. This could be acknowledging receipt, changing a behavior, or attending a meeting.
Summary/Next Steps: Summarize the main points and detail next steps, if any. This reinforces the message and gives the reader a clear path forward.
With this template at hand, you’re all set to start crafting effective business memos. Remember, the essence of a good memo lies in clear and concise communication.
Are You Ready to Write a Memo?
We realize that you may be feeling overwhelmed.
But remember, you’re not alone.
This process will become second nature with practice, and the benefits are worth the effort.
Your professional communication is set to improve drastically, leading to better collaboration and effectiveness at work.
So, stand tall, take a deep breath, and let’s conquer the world of memo writing together!
You’ve got this, and we’re here to support you every step of the way.