How to Write a Better Memo

In the United States, employees often find themselves constantly bombarded by emails. Around 3.2 hours a day are spent checking work-related emails while another 3.1 hours are spent checking personal emails, according to the Huffington Post. Workers also check their emails before work, after work, while taking bathroom breaks and during their commute. Obviously, emails are a vital (almost overbearing) component to today’s business communication. So how do you make your important message stand out from the others that flood your coworkers’ and employees’ inboxes? The answer is the often-overlooked office memo.

Although it seems like ages ago, an office memo once was the primary form of communicating important internal information. They were (and still are) intended to be more formal than emails, but less formal than a business letter.

People write memos for many reasons, including to share policy or procedure changes, announce upcoming events or meetings, present proposals and share other important internal documents. They aren’t intended to be long pieces but typically have more information than the average email.

Making the Most of an Office Memo

man writing office memo

Organize Your Office Memo Beforehand

The art of writing an office memo is a job skill that seems to have fallen through the cracks in many offices. Many people don’t spend the time to plan their memo. Be better than this. Before you dive right into memo writing and sharing, some planning needs to take place. Think about the intention of your memo. Are you sharing new guidelines employees need to follow? Are you introducing a new product or project? Create a thesis so that you stay in the scope of your memo. Remember: the memo should be shorter than a report and only include needed information. Don’t go into too much detail; you run the risk of losing the reader’s attention.

Office Memo Writing 101

Now that you’ve planned the scope of your office memo, it’s time to dig into writing it. It’s helpful to outline each section before you begin to write actual sentences. This should be the basic format of a high-quality office memo, as described by Purdue Online Writing Lab:

  1. Proper heading format:workspace with laptop and notebook
    • To: (this should include everyone who needs to see the memo)
    • From: (your name and job title)
    • Date
    • Subject (Try to think of a unique yet succinct way to describe what your memo entails)
  1. Opening paragraph—describe what purpose the memo serves to everyone receiving it
  2. Potential paragraph—summarize contents of the memo (This should only exist if the memo is longer than one page and contains more information than the .)
  3. Organized paragraph(s) —explain the ideas intended to be communicated in the memo. (All facts and points in this paragraph should directly tie back to your thesis.)
  4. Ending paragraph—thank the recipients for reading the memo and add any related follow-up information they may need.

Read through your memo multiple times to make sure it is free of typos, makes sense and connects back to your original thesis. If possible, have someone else look at it. Depending on the length or topic matter, the memo can either be pasted into an email or included as an attachment.

Practice Makes Perfect

Memo writing can seem daunting (and a bit outdated) to do, but it shouldn’t be. With some organization and practice, you’ll be able to draft compelling, useful memos in no time. Brush up on your writing skills with our course Writing Business ReportsJoin KnowledgeCity and take your business skills to the next level. Try our free online employee training today.

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