Any structured format in writing can be tricky, but memos are a vital part of running your organization. They’re one of the most common ways to communicate in the business world.
They allow you to share information and updates with your team, as well as keep everyone on the same page.
But how do you write a memo that serves its purpose and gets your point across? In a world where we're inundated with information, making your memo stand out in inboxes full of emails and other documents can be hard.
For that particular reason, in this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about how to write a business memo, including structure, format, and tips on making sure your memo is clear and concise.
A business memo is an informal, internal document typically used to communicate with multiple people at once.
Memos are often used to share brief yet vital information, such as:
Memos usually follow a standard format and structure. This makes them easy to read and digest, which is essential when you're trying to communicate important information to a large group of people.
Similarly, memos should be clear and concise, getting straight to the point without any fluff or filler. This can be a challenge, but it's important to remember that your reader's time is valuable.
The last thing you want is for your memo to end up in the virtual trash because it was too long, rambling, or otherwise difficult to understand.
To understand how to format a business memo, you first need to know to who the memo is addressed.
Answering this question will determine the way you format your memo.
There are two types of memos: interdepartmental and external. Interdepartmental memos are sent from one department to another within the same company. Meanwhile, external memos are sent to people or organizations outside of the company.
The two are formatted differently. Interdepartmental memos are typically less formal, while external memos need to adhere to a more professional tone.
In both cases, the memo is meant for a specific audience. Its purpose is to communicate a message to multiple people without having to meet in person.
This means that you don't need to add extra style to make it more interesting or beautiful. All you need is clean formatting and clear writing.
However, sometimes your boss may have requirements for how memos should be formatted, including:
If this is the case at your company, make sure that your memo follows those standards.
What if there aren't any specific formatting guidelines you need to follow? In that case, here are some general tips to make sure your memo looks clean and professional:
The most important thing to remember when it comes to formatting is that your goal is to make the memo easy to read and understand.
What elements should you include in your business memo?
Read on to find out!
The first thing you need to do when writing a business memo is establish its purpose. Why are you writing it in the first place?
The very top line of your memo should state the purpose of the memo and make it super clear why you're writing. This is especially important if you're sending the memo to multiple people.
While it’s tempting to just jump into the body of your memo, starting with the purpose helps set the stage for what's to come. It also gives your recipients a clear idea of why they should care about your message.
It can certainly be challenging when you're summarizing complex topics or presenting multiple concepts, but remember that brevity is key to good business communication. You don't want to overwhelm your audience with unnecessary details before they've even made it halfway through your first paragraph.
So, how exactly do you state the purpose of your memo? Here are a few examples:
It's also a good idea to come up with a strong headline even before you start writing the memo itself.
This will help you stay focused on what's important and make it easier to develop a clear purpose statement.
A good headline follows this formula: [ACTION TO BE TAKEN] ON [PROJECT NAME].
For example, "Approval needed for proposed budget changes" or "Update on progress of XYZ project."
As we mentioned before, memos are typically less formal than other business documents, but they should still maintain a professional tone.
This means you should:
Because tone isn't always easy to convey in written communication, it's important to be aware of how you're coming across in your memo.
If you're unsure, you can always use Copy.ai's "Tone Changer" tool to help you establish a professional tone.
You'll have plenty of options to choose from, so you can be sure your memo hits the right note with your intended audience.
You'll want to include any background information that's necessary for understanding the subject of your memo, especially if it's complex.
This can be as simple as a quick definition or as involved as another paragraph that provides context and additional details. If you're going to include additional data or statistics, use bullet points to make this information easy to scan.
Keep your description brief and only include the most essential details.
Don't incorporate any figures or statistics that aren't directly connected to the goal of your memo. This will confuse your audience and detract from the core message of your communication.
For example, suppose you're writing a memo about a new product launch. In that case, you might want to include information about:
Following your background information, add your reason for writing. In other words, what do you want your audience to do after reading your memo?
Your call to action should be clear, direct, and easy to understand. For example, "I'm writing to request your approval for the XYZ project," or, "I'm asking for your investment in the ABC initiative."
Then, make a note of any relevant deadlines to your request.
For example, "I need your approval by the end of Friday," or, "The ABC initiative will be launching next month."
Remember that the people you're writing to are busy, so be respectful of their time by getting to the point quickly and being clear about what you need from them.
At the same time, you need to be aware that they don't necessarily have as much background knowledge on the subject as you do. Don't assume they know as much as you and include all the information they need to make a decision.
They need to know and understand exactly:
Most importantly, be specific, concise, and clear. It's worth stressing that you need to use language that everyone on staff can understand, not industry insider jargon.
For instance, if you're in the marketing department, it's fine to use industry-specific terms when you're writing to fellow marketers.
However, if you're including people from other departments, or if your memo is going to be distributed more widely, then it's important to stick to language everyone can understand.
You're almost done! The final step is to provide any relevant follow-up information your audience needs to know.
This might include details about:
For example, you can say:
Giving your audience a clear understanding of what's expected of them (and what they can expect from you) ensures that everyone is on the same page.
The following checklist will ensure you include all the vital elements of a good business memo.
If you’ve written a memo and it includes all the items on this list, you should be in good shape!
By following this checklist, you can be sure that you're covering all of your bases.
As long as you keep your business memos short, sweet, and to the point, you'll be sure to impress your colleagues, clients, or boss.
However, if you feel that writing isn't your strong suit, don't worry! There are other ways to get these ideas across. You just need someone who can communicate your message clearly.
Luckily, Copy.ai’s AI-powered writing tools can help you write memos, high quality resumes that secure your future, or a letter of recommendation for students that grabs the attention of the recipient.
In a matter of minutes, you can have well-crafted content that covers all the bases (without breaking a sweat!).
So, why not give it a try?
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