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ImageWe 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.

These Bearded Iris plants add inspiration and joy to a writer’s life.

So, you love to write. Perhaps you’ve created a blog of your own or even completed an eBook. Friends and family tell you how talented you are and then they ask you how you plan to take your skills to the next level. You open your mouth to reply and then your mind goes blank.

So, where do you go from here?

You have a wealth of help and information readily available at your fingertips. Never before has access to other writers and to education been as easy as it is right now. Here are some ways to get the support you need.

  • Webinars – There are a myriad of websites that offer free webinars on all kinds of topics, from blogging to social media and beyond. Just use your favorite search engine to look for those that fit your particular needs. Be sure to read the fine print, though, so you don’t end up unintentionally paying for something you didn’t want to, or signing up for something accidentally. To learn how to turn your penning to profit, I like HubSpot and Social Media Examiner. The writer’s websites listed below also offer writer’s webinars and podcasts, as well.
  • Writer’s websites – There are many writers’ websites out there, but one of my favorites is Writer’s Digest. They offer a host of free resources and support, provided by successful writers already working in the field. They also host competitions and you can review past webinars free of charge. For those of you who love to write novels, but need a little encouragement, NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month) is a must – they even have a summer novel camp that I recently joined. Another website I love is Red Room, but there are many, many more for you to choose from, so do a search and get out there.
  • Social Media – You can use social media to market your writing, but it’s also a great way to meet other writers. My current favorites are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but new social media sites pop up often, so keep your eyes open. A tip for you: WordPress has widgets you can add to connect your blog to these sites, so take advantage of this wonderful feature. Just click on “Appearance” in the left hand menu in your Dashboard to select “Widgets.” Choose what you like from there, follow the prompts and you’re on your way. In addition, you can sign up for webinars to learn how to use all three top social media sites effectively.
  • Job Sites – Let’s not forget copy writing, scripting and editing. If you are in between books, or enjoy helping others using your writing skills, you can find some nice little gigs at places like oDesk and Elance. Although it may take a while to build up your profile so you can get the higher paying jobs, these sites are a great way to make ends meet, or even to find some permanent clients. A great writer gets great feedback, and before you know it, you’ll get tons of job offers from these job sites. I strongly advise you to read their policies and procedures in order to avoid being scammed.
  • Blog Sites – We don’t want to leave out the obvious. Places like WordPress and Blogger have opened up the world of writing to many people. A word of caution: Watch out for plagiarism. Every so often, take a few lines of your text and input it into a search engine like Google to see if anyone is using your work. This happens more often than most people realize. Read this article, “How to Avoid Plagiarism on the Internet,” for some helpful tips.
  • Online writing classes – There are many online writing classes and courses that cover a variety of topics in many price ranges, but I particularly like the ones offered by Writer’s Digest. Another great resource is local (and not so local) colleges, because so many of them now offer online studies. Many other writer websites also offer classes and workshops, so do your homework – you’ll be sure to find a class that suits you.
  • Writer’s Groups – You can check your local library or newspaper for writer’s groups, too. They range from poetry groups, to creative writing groups, to groups where writers critique each other’s work. Another great resource is Meetup, where you can find tons of writing groups in your area, or you can use it to start your very own group.

I’m sure I could go on and on about the resources currently available, and I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few, but if you get out there and start meeting other writers, you’ll find exactly what you need. I honestly feel that writers support and nurture each other more than with any other field. Although there certainly may be some healthy competition, true writers recognize the fact that mingling is a good thing. I think this is because in order to become a really great writer, you must read, read, READ. You can’t just read your own stuff; therefore, you need other writers to produce good material, just as much as they need you to do the very same thing, so get writing!

Please feel free to come back to view my next blog, “How to Break Out of Writer’s Block.”

Something as simple as a morning hike can be a marvelous source of inspiration!

Everyone has something that they’re good at and that they love to do. For me, it’s writing; it always has been. I write every day whether I have to or not. I write in my sleep.

But how do you take that desire, that talent and use it to support yourself? How can you turn your life’s passion into profit? The answer to those questions are different for everyone, but once you know the answer, it changes everything.

So, how does one figure it all out? For me, it was the way I do everything: I tend to jump in with both feet, like a child jumping into their favorite wading pool on a hot, humid summer’s day. I’ve never done anything less than 100 percent, however everyone has their own style, and what works for me may not work for you.

Therein lies my point.

You have to know how you work best. Do you like to start slowly, doing all the research, talking to others in the same field or business and then creating a business plan? Perhaps you like to learn by your mistakes, or work as part of a team, rather than as the boss. Whatever it is that helps you operate at your best, if you know exactly what it is, you can be successful.

Having said all that, one more important thing to add is that you should push your limits. Try to go outside your comfort zone and stick your neck out once in a while. Although too much stress is never good for anyone, I’m not talking about doing something that strikes terror in your heart. What I’m talking about is doing something that you really want to do, but it’s just a little bit daunting for you.

Baby steps, baby!

Start by simply taking one thing and making it your goal. Choose something you have the desire to accomplish and then do it. Make it happen in your way and in your time – and when that’s done, make another goal – and another – until, one by one, you’ve managed to make some really exciting progress.

I hope you found this helpful – please let me know if you did and don’t hesitate to send me questions: Writemystuff@yahoo.com.

And, please return for the next installment of this blog, “You Don’t Have to Go it Alone,” next week!

You know you are a talented and prolific writer, and you most likely have the spelling, composition and grammar skills to prove it. Maybe you also have the experience and education, as well. Most writers started as creative writers, so it’s quite possible your dream is to write a screenplay, novel or nonfiction book. But, as we all know, right now there are bills to pay. Here are ten ways that I’ve found for you to make the rent money while you work on your future bestseller:

  1. Journalism – The field of journalism offers variety, because you can choose any of your favorite hobbies or interests, and write about them while earning a reasonable salary. You also have a myriad of venues to submit your writing, including printed media, such as newspapers, magazines and trade journals; or broadcast media, such as television, radio and the Internet. The most important components of writing good news copy are accuracy and timeliness. You must get all of the pertinent details right and submit the story while the topic is fresh. You also need to find your niche. Do you love sports, fashion or travel? The best part about journalism is the ability to write about things you care about, which leads to great copy, because you’ll reflect your passion for the subject in your work, making it stand out above the rest.
  2. Technical Copy – If you are one of those people who are technical-minded, technical copy writing is the choice for you. This type of writing requires the ability to read technical specifications and engineering documents, and then understand them well enough to break them down into simpler language for the average reader. This field includes creating user manuals, technical specifications and company documents, such as equipment lists, for both traditional print and for the web. A strong background in engineering, drafting and mechanics will prove beneficial in this specialized field of writing.
  3. Scientific, Legal and Medical Research – You need a specialized academic background for this type of writing, such as law, research science, biology, chemistry and legal and medical terminology. However, there is a high demand for people who can write about medical products, scientific breakthroughs, new medications, legal issues and the latest regulations. There is also need for people who can write scientific research reports, as well as grant proposals for scientific research studies.
  4. Marketing and Advertising – There will always be a need for talented marketing writers. You can earn a steady income if you can write effective marketing and advertising copy. Copy writing offers variety, from writing product descriptions for catalogs to producing web content. Having a working knowledge of search engine marketing and optimization skills is a plus in this field.
  5. Public Relations – The ability to write and submit press releases and other copy to promote businesses and groups in the media is a great way to earn a living by writing. You will need a basic understanding of Associated Press style guidelines and press release format, but once you prove your worth, people will seek your services on a regular basis.
  6. Biographies and Ghost Writing – Writers can help people document the lives of loved ones, whether they are well-known or not. A new market has opened up with the introduction of one of the newest types of publications, the memory book, which contains both text and photos, to honor those who have passed. In addition, there is a great need for ghost writers to document the lives of famous people, who are either too busy to do it themselves, or simply lack the writing skills. Ghost writers also assist people write about other subjects, like an exciting adventure, unbelievable tragedy or historical event. The venues change with the times, for example, with the advent of the tablet (iPad, Kindle, Android and others), eBooks and Kindle publications provide yet another platform for writer to offer their writings.
  7. Newsletters – Many companies, clubs and groups publish a newsletter, either with traditional printed media or electronically, and need writers to provide content or edit the finished product before it’s released. Although most newsletters have a specific focus, they are a good way to get your feet wet before you advance to media with a larger audience, such as newspapers and magazines. Newsletters, published on a regular basis, are a good way to earn a steady income, too.
  8. Blogging – People blog for many reasons, however, blogging has quickly become an effective search engine marketing and optimization tool. E-commerce websites use blogs to attract new visitors to their websites, as well as to keep current users returning to read new content, with the hope that they will become regular customers or clients. Most people consider blogging to be an informal way of writing. However, in order for your reader to consider your blog informative and authoritative, excellent grammar, composition and spelling skills are a necessity. Good writers can earn a regular income with blogging.
  9. Poetry and Prose – Are you a master with words? Greeting card companies, magazines, newspapers, websites and gift manufacturers are always on the look out for people who can write short poetry, funny sayings or entertaining prose. With so many holidays and occasions, the greeting card industry is a booming business. People will always need cards with funny, sweet or serious poetry and prose.
  10. Social Media – Many businesses use social media to engage their customers, which increases their revenue, but they often don’t have the time to keep them updated. Many writers provide this service, posting for companies at websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, for example.

I prefer to work a variety of writing jobs at one time. You could pick and choose from this list, so that you won’t get bored. If you become skilled at any of the above ten types of writing, you can make a decent living and still have time to work on your dream piece of literature, poetry or prose.

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