8 Tips on Writing a Memo


Before we introduce you to eight great tips on how to write a memo, we should first figure out what a memo is per se. In most contexts, memo is a document that is written and kept inside one company. It is used with a purpose to guarantee clear and fruitful communication within the staff of a certain organization. Since a memo is a document that is always written with a practical implication in mind, it is important to know the requirements for this kind of writing, as well as little hacks and tricks that can improve it even further.

Most people working in big corporations have to deal with memos sooner or later. Although these notes are important for a smooth functioning of the company, they are still not that enjoyable to write because most workers don’t want to lose their time on paperwork while there are more urgent issues to resolve. Another thing to keep in mind is that in a big office where you don’t personally know most people, their impression of you will be built on the basis of your memos. You need to be able to combine normativity, good writing and communication skills and all this just for one short memo. If you don’t know how to approach this challenge, the following eight tips will cover the subject extensively.

Understand Why You’re Writing a Memo

Memo is a type of writing that stands by itself far away from school essays or formal letters that most people are familiar with. The main feature that puts it aside is the fact that it’s very short and never leaves the walls of the company where it was initially written. If memo gets longer than two pages maximum, it turns into a report and loses its purpose. However, the shorter a memo is, the better; if you’re able to clearly express yourself in two paragraphs instead of two pages, you’ve mastered the main rule of the business world. People might write memos for different reasons but all of them should be connected with the organization matters. The most common ones are to accept or decline an offer, remind of a deadline, constructively criticize someone, or file a proposal. In general, memos have informative or persuasive character.

Make it Personal

Even though memos are a type of formal writing, try to keep the tone light and personal. Pronouns I, we, you are more likely to create a welcoming tone and thus set the reader in your favor. Passive constructions should also be avoided giving way to active ones. Everyone would agree that the sentence “I would like to receive this report soon” sounds a lot friendlier than the unnecessary “You’ve been requested to hand in the report immediately.”

Use Simple Grammar

Memos are usually written in circumstances when you’re not able to say something directly to the addressee. That’s why your writing should be representative of your normal speech. Instead of the formal “I am,” the contraction “I’m” is completely acceptable in memos. In fact, it’s encouraged to use conversational language when writing a memo to your colleague.

Don’t Try to Sound Too Smart

Showing off by using rare vocabulary and sophisticated constructions is something that many people are guilty of. Such approach is completely unnecessary, and it creates the impression as if you’re a college student who’s trying to impress his English teacher by using only dictionary words in place of normal ones. In addition, you’ll come across very standoffish and full of yourself. No one likes people who write “as far as your request is concerned, the results are available for your attention” instead of “Here’s what you asked for.”

Avoid Foreign Words

English words of French and Latin origin are often used to add more “volume” to what’s being said. The most abused ones are words with such endings as “ment”, “tion” and “ility.” Despite the fact that they might create the impression of a highly intelligent and well-versed writer, they are way too pompous for a simple memo. For instance, the meaning of the sentence “Your involvement in the performance of the organization is in need of an improvement” can be easily expressed in simple words like “We would like you to cooperate more.”

Imagine the Reader

Memos usually have a form of the request for the reader so one of the main rules is to make it clear. After having written your note, read it once again and check whether you come across in an obvious way. Memos help the company to function fast and coordinated so once you send it, the reader has to understand it immediately and take required actions. So stay concise and straightforward explaining your message with simple words.

Go Straight to the Point

Beating around the bush is not the approach you’d want to adopt with writing memos. Very often, people start approaching the topic from a distance leading to the main point through a number of introductions and unnecessary constructions. Once again, you want to come across clear so express what you need already in the first paragraph or ideally in the first sentence. You’ll have the following sentences to add all the polite expressions but the first one should be a clear explanation of your writing purpose.

Don’t Give Too Many Reasons

If you want to explain why something has to be done, try to focus only on the main reasons. Studies show that readers tend to perceive only 5-6 explanations at once, and afterward their attention begins to waver. You might be overwhelmed with the topic and want to explain it as deep as possible, but that’s not what memos are for. If you can’t resist the urge, write these things on a separate piece of paper and include it with the memo. The note itself should have short paragraphs, clear-cut sentences, and only the most vital points.

Finally, close the memo with encouraging the reader to do what you’ve requested and setting very clear due dates. Too many memos fail to deliver for the reason that the writer forgot to state the deadline.

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