How to Write a Business Memo

How to Write a Business Memo

What Is a Business Memo?

A business memo is a short document that is used to transfer information within a business.

Unlike a business letter, a memo is usually relatively informal, although it should still be written in a professional style.

In most situations a business memo would be sent to inform others of issues that have arisen or actions that need to be taken.

Alternatively, memos can be used to give or request factual information from others within a business.

What Should a Business Memo Include?

When considering how to write a good business memo, it is important to remember that not everybody is the same.

Some individuals will read the whole memo, whereas others will skim for the facts or only read the beginning in order to learn key information.

This is why it is important to ensure that your memo is set out properly, in order to ensure that you are able to accommodate the individuals who will only read a summary, as well as those who are thorough.

You should also make sure that your memo is tailored for your intended audience.

While there are not strict rules for writing a business memo, there are things that are generally accepted as being normal practice.

It is important to include these things in your memo:

  • Date – This is especially important if a memo is of a time-sensitive nature so that the recipient is aware of when the note was sent.

  • To – You should next list who the primary recipient of the memo is. Sometimes, this will include their job title as an added formality. When there are multiple recipients, it is a good idea to add them as a cc. after the main recipient.

  • From – This should be your name, occasionally with your job title added. Often, individuals will add their handwritten initials to the memo in order to act as a signature.

  • Subject – The subject line is your opportunity to introduce and outline the topic of discussion. This should be a concise statement that indicates the topic of your memo.

  • Body – This is the main body of your memo. Here, you will go into more detail regarding the subject, actions which need to be taken and how you wish for recipients to respond. You should keep the body of text concise so that it can be read and understood quickly.

What to Avoid in a Business Memo

  • Informality – While a business memo is less formal than a letter, it is still important to be professional. For this reason, you should avoid using informal and slang terms.

  • Addresses – Business memos are intended for internal use. For this reason, there is no need to include an address.

  • Opening and closing phrases – Unlike a letter, there is no need for an opening or closing phrase in a business meme. This means that there is no requirement to open with ‘dear…’ or end with ‘yours sincerely…’

  • Lengthy paragraphs – While you should ensure that you include all of the relevant information, there is no need to ramble or include lengthy paragraphs. Memos should be kept as concise as possible.

Tips for Writing an Effective Business Memo

Use Professional Language

Above all, a business memo is for professional use. The language used should be kept formal and professional in order to convey the right impression to the recipient.

Business memos that are full of unprofessional and informal language are less likely to be taken seriously and don’t make a good impression.

Use an Appropriate Font

As with all professional communications, it is important to make sure that it is easy to read and understand. For this reason, you should make sure to use an easy-to-read font.

While fussy fonts are nice to look at, they are often more challenging to read if someone is in a hurry.

Using a simple font in your business memo will look more professional and also ensure that the recipient is able to quickly and easily understand its contents.

You should also make sure to use the correct size when writing your memo. Too large and it will look unprofessional, too small and it will be difficult to read. Most people will choose to use a font size between 10 and 14.

Make the Most of the Subject Line

Many people will decide how urgently memos need to be dealt with by looking at the subject line. Make sure that yours highlights the topic in order to attract the reader's attention.

You should also consider adding a statement such as ‘action required’ or ‘urgent’ in order to emphasize the fact that your communication needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.

Put the Purpose in the First Line of Your Communication

By making sure that the purpose of your memo is the first thing which you mention, you are ensuring that the reader is quickly able to grasp the concept.

It also means that they are able to easily understand the importance of your communication with them.

Use the First Paragraph for Critical Information

The most important information should always be listed first. This ensures that it isn’t lost within the body of the memo or overlooked by individuals who are in a hurry.

Use the Second Paragraph for Context

It may be that your memo doesn’t need additional context. If it does, then this should be included within the second paragraph.

This way, you are enabling your recipients to gain extra information if they require it, but still keeping the memo easy to digest for those who are likely to skim read.

Outline Any Actions in the Third Paragraph

An indication of required actions should be given within the first paragraph, but further information should be given in your third paragraph.

This allows individuals to understand exactly what is required from them. You can also use this paragraph to set a time limit for responses or a deadline for actions to be taken.

Use Headings When Necessary

If your memo needs to be long or covers a variety of issues, then it is a good idea to use headings.

This helps to break up a lengthy document and also enables recipients to easily find sections that are particularly applicable to them.

An example would be to create a heading that highlights actions that need to be taken so that those reading the memo can quickly and easily find what is required of them.

How to Write a Business Memo (with Examples)
How to Write a Business Memo (with Examples)

Summarize the Main Points

Not everyone will take the time to thoroughly read all of the information included. Because of this, it is a good idea to include a summary of the main points.

This way, if someone doesn’t have the time to read the whole thing, they will still be able to understand the meaning of the memo, as well as any actions they are being asked to take.

Typically a summary is included within the first paragraph when you outline the key points and purpose of your memo.

Finish with a Clear Outcome/Action/Thanks

Always make sure to finish your memo properly.

Although there is no need for phrases such as ‘yours sincerely’, you should always end by summarizing the outcome you hope to achieve, thanking the recipient ahead of their response and your name.

Review Your Memo before Sending

This is good practice in any kind of communication. You should always review your memo before sending it, remove any unnecessary text and ensure that your meaning is easily understood.

It is also a good opportunity for you to check for any spelling or grammatical errors that would come across as unprofessional.

If you are unsure whether your memo covers all of the essential points, perhaps ask a colleague to proofread it for you before sending it to the recipient.

Examples of Business Memos

Example One

September 20th, 2021
To: Joe Frank
From: Martin Smith
Subject: Team meeting – October 1st 2021 – Response Required

The next team meeting and review has been scheduled for October 1st. This month’s focus will be on sales figures and how to achieve targets in the run-up to Christmas. All team leaders are required to attend this meeting, either in person or via Zoom. It would be appreciated if you could inform me whether you will be attending in person. We will be asking all team leaders to bring their current month’s sales figures with them, along with any issues that they may have.

The third quarter is always a challenging one for our company. By holding a sales-focussed team meeting and asking for input from all of the relevant team leaders, we are looking to brainstorm new ideas and solutions going forward.

Please let me know before September 29th whether you will be attending in person or via video link. If you have any other questions, queries or issues which you need help with, please don’t hesitate to come to me directly.

Many thanks,
Martin

Example Two

03/04/21
To: Chloe Jones – Head of Content Creation
From: Gary Briant – Head of Marketing
Subject: Content Creation Calendar – Respond ASAP

As we approach the end of this financial year, I am aware that we need to finalize the content calendar going forward. For this reason, I would like to propose a meeting with yourself and the rest of the content team to devise a plan for the next six months. Ideally, I would like for this to happen before the end of this financial year.

Your team of content creators have helped our business to go from strength to strength over the last twelve months and we are keen to build on this momentum by fine-tuning our approach. It would be good to hear from yourself and the rest of the team what you think has worked particularly well and what could perhaps be improved.

Please could you inform me of any days or times which would be good to arrange a meeting. Currently, I have availability on 03/20, 03/21 and 03/25 so it would be good to get a date in the diary for one of those.

Thank you for all of your hard work over the last year. I look forward to discussing the next steps with you.

Gary

Example Three

Date: 10/31/21
To: All Staff
From: Melanie Jones – HR
Subject: Leaving Party for Sacha Smith

As you are all aware, Sacha is leaving on 11/01. We are holding a leaving party for her ahead of her last day as an opportunity for all staff to wish her well.

The party will be held in the conference room on the third floor at 4pm on 10/31/21.

Snacks and drinks will be provided. Please confirm your attendance with myself along with any dietary requirements before 10/25.

Final Thoughts

Business memos are commonly used in a wide variety of industries and companies, no matter their size or purpose.

For your memo to be noticed and received in the way that it is intended, it is important to ensure that you use the correct level of formality and formatting.

By using a template, such as the ones outlined above, you can be sure that you are ticking all of the right boxes in order to achieve your goals.


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