How to Write and Send a Memo

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A professionally written memo is crucial in business communications.
A professionally written memo is crucial in business communications. (Image: computer with keyboard and mail image by patrimonio designs from Fotolia.com)

Your ability to communicate effectively will directly impact your success at work. It's crucial for you to know how to write and send correspondence that is concise and understandable. The business memo is a brief document that addresses a specific group of people and focuses on a specific purpose. A well-written memo will help you communicate efficiently and achieve results. In addition to writing it properly, it's crucial to make sure your memo is sent properly, to the people who need to read it the most.

Crafting Your Memo

Think about your audience. Before you begin composing your memo, consider the education level and experience of the people with whom you are communicating. Also keep in mind the needs of your recipients. Some individuals may need more detailed instructions and specific, established guidelines, while others can be provided a very general bit of information and then take initiative on their own.

Use correct header formatting. In the "Date" line, use standard abbreviations. For "To," you should list each person who will be receiving the memo by name. Don't use nicknames. Use first and last names, and put them in order either alphabetically or by position within the company. For the "From" line, use your first and last name, as well as which department you are in, if applicable.

Choose a subject line that is specific and informative. Often, people send memos with subject lines that are vague and general. A specific and concise one will give recipients a far better idea of what the memo is referencing. For example, a general subject line would read "Meeting," but a specific subject line might say, "Sales team presentation for Friday's meeting."

Open with the specifics. Don't waste time with chit-chat or background. The first part of your memo should say exactly what you need. Using the example above, of the sales team presentation, you might open with, "At Friday's meeting, the sales team will present a slide show with income and accounts payable figures for the first quarter."

Write your memo, avoiding passive voice. A memo is designed to share information and request assistance, so you need to use an active voice. In grammar and writing, active voice means that the subject of a sentence is active--doing or being something--rather than having other things happen to them. Active voice would read as, "The sales team will present a slide show." A passive approach would be phrased as, "We'd like the sales team to consider a slide show presentation."

Write a conclusion. Your conclusion doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should summarize the key points referenced in the memo itself.

Edit your work. Few things are as embarrassing as sending out a business memo and realizing afterward that you've left a giant misspelling right in the middle of it. Proofread your memo before sending it, and in addition to making corrections, eliminate unnecessary words. Keep your memo concise.

Send Your Memo

Send your memo. If you are sending it through inter-office mail, make sure that each person addressed in the memo gets his own copy. No one should ever have to share a memo with the guy in the next cubicle.

Use email if it's an option. An email memo should be sent to everyone at the same time, but you may wish to blind copy some of the recipients. If you are emailing your memo, put the subject of the memo in the subject line of the email header. Don't use cute or colorful fonts, images or other email add-ons.

Follow up once you've sent your memo. If there is a deadline mentioned in the memo, make sure you check back with recipients later on.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure your memo follows any company guidelines regarding bullet points, paragraph spacing, etc.
  • If you're using email to send a memo, double check before hitting the "Send" key. You'll want to be cautious about who receives proprietary or confidential information via email.

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