Memos are a fundamental form of communication in any office. Memos can be written as a quick note in hard copy or can be sent as a soft copy in a group email. A memo usually contains any essential information that you need to send to other employees, departments, or companies.
Writing a memo might seem easy to do, but might be tougher than you think. There are a few pitfalls around memo writing that you should be watching out for. First of all, a memo should be written in a particular format, which is what really identifies it as a memo in the first place.
In order to write a memo that’s short and to the point, you’ll need to understand the parts of a memo and what features make a good memo.
Format of a Memo
As mentioned earlier, memos follow a basic format that’s widely accepted. They’re made of 6 basic parts that follow the same order each time you’re crafting a memo. These parts are broken down into different headings as you can see below.
The title is usually written at the very top of the memo and centered. It is usually the word “Memorandum” or “Memo” in short. Don’t add any other information on this line. Using this title makes it so your note can be easily recognized as a memo.
This line comes immediately under the title referenced above. Here, the name and position of the person to whom the memo is addressed should be filled in. Always use their full official name or names, as well as their recognized title within the organization.
Avoid nicknames or only using first names. If you’re not sure about the names of everyone you’re addressing, you can find out from their department heads to avoid any embarrassment.
As the title aptly describes, this line references the name and position of the person who’s writing or dictating the memo. It could be the General Manager, Head of Human Resources, or someone from any department for that matter. Just like with the address or ‘To’ line, don’t use shortened names or unofficial names.
This line should contain the date when the memo was sent out. Whatever format you choose to use, or that your organization uses, it should contain the year and the month as well as the day.
The subject is usually what the memo is about. This section should be summarized quickly and not too long. It should also be written in a professional voice. Additionally, this section should capture the overall message the memo is sending without any ambiguity.
Naturally, the body of the memo falls underneath the subject line. This part of the memo is what includes all the information you want, sent out in clear and concise language. Additionally, the language should be professional and as simple as possible. Usually, the body of a memo shouldn’t exceed one page.
Keeping Your Memo Short and to the Point
Writing a memo essentially involves sending out a message that could be read by both your intended audience, along with anyone else that comes across it. This is because memos could be printed out and stuck on notice boards anywhere in the office, or sent discreetly to the intended audience.
Whatever the case, a memo should be kept short and the message to the point thanks to the varied audiences it serves. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you do this.
Write a Clear Introduction
Capture the gist of your entire memo in your introduction sentence. Avoid any salutations or long-winded introductions of yourself and your position in the company. Consider your introduction to be the thesis of your note — letting your readers know where your memo is headed.
Use Bullet Points
Bullet points are a great way of summarizing the main points of your memo, as opposed to acres of blocky paragraphs. Use bullet points often, especially if your memo will cover different issues under the same subject. This kind of writing is not only easy on the eye, but it helps you keep your sentences short and precise.
Use Simple Language
It’s very tempting to write a memo with lots of jargon in it, especially if you’re in a supervisory position and feel the need to stamp your authority. This won’t only work against you but can cause your memo to be unnecessarily long (since a lot of jargon requires follow-up information to emphasize or explain).
Keep your language as simple as possible and avoid any jargon or euphemisms of any kind. Another thing to avoid is overly polite language, which can end up being too wordy.
Since a memo often contains information that’s meant to bring people up to speed about a meeting or an upcoming event, make sure that you keep to the message. Don’t go out of your way to explain each and every point that you’re trying to make. Think of a memo as a billboard — you only have so much time to capture your audience’s attention. Use it wisely.
Write Several Drafts
Start by getting down all your initial thoughts for the memo that you’re planning to send out in a draft before writing the final draft. You can write as many drafts as you need to, just make sure you edit and shorten your memo before you send it out. Focus on being clear and concise.
You’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll take out and rewrite by the time you’re finished. Consider passing it along to another trusted friend or co-worker. A second set of eyes can help you catch any errors or weed out unnecessary information.
Consider Your Audience
Writing a short and concise memo can be harder than it looks, but it’s worth the effort. Take your time and make sure you’re following the correct format for the information you need to send out. Additionally, it’s important to think about who your audience will be and where your memo will be placed, shared, or displayed.