Writing Winning Memos

Memos are a great way of effectively conveying your message to many people. But what good is it if nobody understands what you are trying to say. Think of how many reams of paper with tiny black and white print cross over your supervisor’s desk each day. If you want your memo’s to stand out from the crowd, apply these winning methods for memo writing.

Before you begin writing, identify the purpose of the memo. Are you documenting a meeting? Do you need someone to take action? Are you addressing a personnel issue for an employee’s file? Make sure you clearly state that specific purpose in one sentence at the very beginning of the memo. No one has time to muddle through several paragraphs to figure out why you wrote the memo. For example:

“This memo documents our understanding of the terms of the agreement discussed at our meeting on ….”
“Please accept this memo as XYZ Company’s written authorization to change the payment terms from 30 days to 45 days.”

These short to the point “what is the purpose” sentences will set the tone of the memo right from the start. Your reader will have a clear understanding of what to do next.

The style of your memo is dictated by your audience. If you are writing a memo to the Regional Sales Director, use a formal format, such as justified paragraphs, rather than an informal format. Lean more toward a conservative writing style. Include people’s last names and titles. Avoid abbreviated words. On the other hand, if you are sending a memo to your assistant to order supplies, you can keep it pretty casual.

Effective use of the “RE:” is just as important as writing a clear “what is the purpose” statement in your memo. A busy manager will quickly look at the “RE:” to determine the urgency and importance of the memo. Your “RE:” should bring about immediate attention. Rather than writing: “RE: ABC Company’s Sales”, be more descriptive like: “RE: Proposal to Increase Sales at ABC Company”. This will put your memo at the top of the pile.

In the high stress, fast-paced corporate world nobody has the time or the patience to read long memos. Keep it short – not just the memo, but the sentences and paragraphs also.Bullets are good visual tools to help simplify complex subject matters. They are also useful in drawing attention to a certain point you are trying to convey to your reader. If you are short on time, bullets are an effective way to communicate your message in the least amount of words.

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