Memoranda (commonly known a memos) have been a staple of internal business communication. While email and other such communications are generally taking the place of memos, memos still hold a place in many businesses. That is why it is important to know the basics of how to write a memo.
Formatting for memos varies somewhat from workplace to workplace, but there are some aspects of formatting that are standard.
The word “Memo,” “Memorandum,” “Interoffice,” or other similar identifying title appears near the top of the page. This works to identify a memo in a slew of other papers that are constantly involved in business.
Date: The date line is necessary to make sure that information and situations get taken care of in a timely manner.
To: The To line addresses the memo to a specific intended audiences. It is often to a department or specific individual. When addressing to an individual, it is common to put the individual’s full name and job title, especially if you do not know the person you are sending the memo to personally.
From: The From line allows the memo to be signed. In most cases you will list it from your name, or perhaps the name of who you are writing the memo for (if you are writing the message for your supervisor). Memos may often be initialed after the typed name to show that responsibility is being taken for the memo.
Subject: The subject line should be specific and concise. Your audience may receive many memos, and a specific title can help to make your memo stand out among the lot. Being concise allows you to omit excess information and gives the reader a basic idea of what is to follow in the body of the memo.
Content should be concise and easily read. Memos are usually skimmed for key information. Therefore the writing must be clear and tend to follow a basic expectation of how information is organized.
First Paragraph: The first paragraph of a memo should explain the purpose of the memo. It could even be a single sentence that says “This memo is to inform you that…” or “I’m writing to request…”
Middle Paragraphs: Each paragraph of a memo should contain one idea and should help the reader understand the information better. If there is a lot of information about a certain topic, bullet points might be able to break up the paragraph into pieces that are easily scanned. Make sure that the information in the memo is adequate to give your audience the information they need to take appropriate action.
Last Paragraph: The last paragraph should be a conclusion, and if the memo is asking for a certain behavior, it should likely be a reiteration of what action the reader is asked to take.
Generally, memos should be easy to read. To keep within this theme, features such as headings, lists, and tables may be beneficial to explaining information. Additionally, paragraphs are generally left aligned with no indentation.
Memos vary in length. In general, most memos do not exceed three or four paragraphs, but there are some cases in which memos take up multiple pages, such as for informal proposals or reports. Memos longer than a page should generally be numbered, and may include the date and the recipient of the memo.
See the image of a sample memo below. (Click the image to see a larger version.)