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As you went through B-school, you certainly had a lot of experience with academic paper writing. There were, however, certain types of writing that you completed that directly related to your business degree and to your potential career. Such writing might have included
- Marketing plans and proposals
- Mock quarterly and annual reports
- White papers
- Writing business proposals and plans
- Creating budgets
One of the things that is often left out of business school curricula, however, is writing a business memo. Perhaps professors simply believe that, once you are on the job, you will automatically be the recipient of memos and thus learn how to write them yourself. Actually, they are wrong, because often, other people, including your boss, may not really know the proper way to compose one. So, you be the person who can create a perfect memo and impress everyone else! And here’s how you are going to do that!
Purpose of a Memo
Memos are typically sent for the following reasons:
- To assign tasks to a group of individuals
- To update several people at one time on the progress of a project
- To announce promotions and other organizational changes
- To announce new products and/or services
- Report the results of some type of research or investigation
- To individual people within the organization if they have requested an update or reporting on something; or if the sender wants specific written documentation
So not overload a memo with several different progress reports or updates. Instead, prepare a different memo for each of these items, even if they are going to the same people. This way, you can keep your content focused, logical, and concise.
Recipients Determine Style and Tone
Consider all of the various relationships you have at work and the tone and style you use in verbal communication with them. You will probably use a more formal tone when speaking with your boss or anyone above your immediate boss; you will be on a first name basis with your peers, and conversation may be less formal; with subordinates, you may be informal but certainly respectful. These communication styles may, in fact, be reflected in your memo communication. However, remember that any time a superior is included as a recipient, the piece must be formal.
There are also times when memo communication must be very formal when directed to a specific individual. If you are in the unhappy situation of having to document poor performance on the part of a subordinate, the memos you prepare to address that poor performance must be quite formal. Remember, they may become documentation in termination or any legal action that may follow.
Standard Memo Format
Your memo should have the following opening lines:
TO: (List everyone to whom the memo is being sent. If the memo is formal in style, add titles when appropriate)
FROM: (This would be you)
DATE: (The day you write it)
SUBJ: (Briefly Title the memo based upon the content. You can also use “RE:” instead of “SUBJ:”)
CC: This would be used if you are copying the memo to someone who is not an actual recipient. For example, if you are “disciplining” an employee, you will probably want to “CC” the appropriate person in HR.
Structure of the Content
Remember all of those academic writing skills for future job search activities that you mastered in your business coursework? Well, now you will get to use them again. Your memo should have the basic parts of any essay that you may have written – and introduction, a body, and a conclusion or summary.
This should be just a few sentences introducing the topic to be covered. For example, you might say, “This memo is written to inform you that our departmental re-organization plan has been approved. As a result, there will be the following personnel and task responsibility changes as of next Monday, June 6.”
Your body paragraphs should be organized into logical sub-sections, and each should have a topic sentence to introduce the content of that paragraph. It is perfectly acceptable to use sub-headings to introduce each paragraph, and, if you have lists of things, use bullet points or number them. This organizes the content for easy reading
You may or may not need a conclusion or a summary, depending upon your purpose. If your recipients are supposed to do something, make sure you repeat it. If you need a response from the recipients, state it clearly and give a deadline.