We use memos every day, sometimes scribbled on sticky notes and other times sent as a formal email or document to coworkers, clients or bosses. But whatever the reason, it’s important to know how to format and write a memo so the person receiving it understands exactly what you’re trying to say and then knows what they need to do in response. And like most types of writing, memos should be brief, easy to read and convey your message concisely.
Make It Look Pretty
- Use single line spaces.
- Justify to the left margin.
- Distinguish small blocks of text with line spaces, rather than indenting the first line of each paragraph.
- Use clear, concise, direct language.
- Outline main points with headings and bullet or numbered lists.
Make Headings and Lists Do All the Work
- Make headings specific. Example: “Vacation Policy Recommendations,” rather than simply “Recommendations” or “Vacation.”
- Restrict lists to a just few phrases or brief statements.
Start with Section One
The first section, the header, should the following items:
- “To” field with recipients’ names and job titles
- “From” field with the sender’s name and job title
- The full date
- A short, but specific subject line
Use Your First Paragraph to Clarify
Introduce the purpose of the memo in the first paragraph by describing the following:
- Explain Yourself - Let recipients know the reasons you are sending a memo.
- What You Expect - Tell the recipients what they need to do next. For example, items they should bring to the next meeting.
- Add More Paragraphs – Expand on the context briefly, adding just the facts to keep it clear and concise.
Tie It All Together
- Create a Call to Action – Close with a comment about any follow-up actions requested, such as asking for recommendations or responses. Add information about a meeting or other upcoming event.
- Sum It Up – Tie up any loose ends by summarizing the main point of the memo and then add a salutation and your closing signature. Example: Regards, Barb Wright.
As you can see, it’s not difficult to compose a memo. Knowing how to write an effective memo improves communication, productivity and your overall success. However, be careful not to go overboard by sending them constantly, or by writing long memos that take forever to read. Keep memos short and sweet – and provide a clear call to action at the end. Used correctly, memos can keep everyone in the loop and working together in harmony.