As your small business or organization grows, odds are that you’ll need to write plenty of short and direct internal communications to your staff—which means you’ll need to know memo formatting.
What Is a Memo?
What are memos? A memo, or memorandum, is one of the most common forms of business communication. While there are many types of business letter formats, formatting a memorandum is an entirely different animal.
To write an effective business letter, you must include seven basic parts in your document, which may include an enclosures line as needed. However, a memorandum format is much simpler. You write “Memo” or “Memorandum” at the top, followed by a To line, a From line, a Date line, a Subject line, and then the actual body of the message.
Wondering how to send a memo? Traditionally, you would print out a memo and distribute the document to the relevant parties within your organization. Today, even if you choose to send your memo as an email message, using some of the tips in this article will enable you to communicate important information to colleagues in a way that demonstrates your professionalism and business communications know-how.
How to Write a Memo
Not sure how to write a memo? Or what the best business memo format is? Just as there are many nuances and rules around how to write a business letter, there are guidelines that you should generally try to follow when writing a memo.
It is best to write in an extremely crisp, to the point, business like tone. Memos are often used for internal company communications. You don’t want to waste your colleagues’ time with niceties or by being overly conversational. Avoid using emotional language—such as, “I would be happy if everyone took turns cleaning the microwave in the break room”—because you might rub people the wrong way. The same goes for writing IN ALL CAPS or using exclamation points, especially if the memorandum is conveying news that may upset people.
It is always better to be straightforward and to share information as quickly as possible.
The memorandum’s message should start with a declaration of purpose: “I am writing to inform you….” “The purpose of this memo is to….” Then summarize the information relevant to the matter at hand. You can close the memo with a call to action, repeating the request you made at the beginning of the memo.
When you type a memo, make sure to give the grammar and spelling in the memo a thorough check. You don’t want to turn the office into an impromptu middle school English class. Also choose easy-to-read fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial.
Learn More: 11 Tips for Writing a Memo
What Is a Memo Written For?
While the format of a memo should generally stay the same throughout the document, the tone and content can change depending on the audience. For example, a memo about organizing a summer picnic for the staff will have a much more cheerful tone than a memorandum informing everyone that the company has to skip raises due to a decrease in business.
Writing a business memo is comparable to jumping up on a desk in the office to telling everyone they need to do something, so always write a memo with the assumption that anyone could end up reading it. The subject could range from a reminder to get expense reports turned in by the end of the month, to the need to make a final sales push before the end of the quarter. A memo might also go to an outside group, such as customers, if it’s reporting on a routine matter requiring action, such as bill payments coming due.
What a memo should not be is a report about everything you’re doing. Limit the subject of the memo to the particular matter at hand that you need people to act on (for example, “This memo is a reminder that expense reports need to be submitted by the end of day on Friday.” “I’m writing this memo to inform you that we need some extra effort from everyone before the end of the month to meet our sales goals.”)
What Are the 5 Parts of a Memo?
Your standard business memo starts with a heading segment. The heading typically follows this format:
TO: (readers’ names and job titles)
FROM: (your name and job title)
DATE: (complete and current date)
SUBJECT: (what the memo is about, highlighted in some way)
Remember to address the reader by their correct job title and name. You should address them by their formal name, even if they have a nickname in an informal setting. You should also make sure your subject line is specific and clear. For example, the subject line “Budget” is too broad and can mean anything from budget codes to budget cuts. Your subject line should be descriptive like, “Spring Campaign Budget Proposal.”
The opening statement of your memo should state the purpose for what you’re writing about. The purpose of the memo will help clarify the reason the recipient should read this memo. The opening paragraph should be approximately the length of a short paragraph. You should make sure you give the reader any background or details they might need before diving into the deeper details. You should then clearly define the context and problem. You can then define the specific task or assignment.
The body segment, sometimes called the discussion segment, of a memo is where the most important details that support your ideas are. You should begin this section with your key findings or recommendations for the reader. Your discussion section can also include any supporting ideas, facts or research that you have to share with the reader. This is where you should include any strong points or evidence and your recommended actions for the recipient. You may use bullet points in this section to list out details, directions or facts.
An effective conclusion (or closing) in a memo should state what action you’d like the reader to take. Be sure to consider how the reader will benefit from taking action and how you can help assist in any way. For example, you can say “I am happy to discuss this recommendation with you in our weekly 1×1 meeting next week and can help assist you with next steps.”
One common question is “do I need to sign a memo?” A salutation and signature are no longer necessary, because the point is to convey needed information or communicate a call to action as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you have any additional details, findings or reporting that will be relevant to the memo, you should include them in your attachments. You can attach lists, graphs, tables, etc. to the end of your memo. Just be sure to refer to your attachments within the memo and add a notation about what is attached below the conclusion, like this:
Attached: Yearly Sales Results by Region, January – April 2022
Business Memo Format Example
What is an example of a memo? Here’s a business memo example format:
To: All Staff
From: Tanya Smith, CEO
Date: July 18, 2018
Subject: NewTech Software Issues
It has come to my attention that many employees are having trouble using our recently acquired NewTech sales management software because it currently creates duplicate client entries. Some of you have stopped using the system altogether. We want this software to help you do your jobs better, not to take up more time. Therefore, it is fine to hold off using it until we resolve the technical issues with NewTech staff.
Memo Format Example
What Is the Format of a Memo?
Once you know how to write a memo you can use Microsoft Word to type it out and format it. Here you’ll find more than a dozen featured memo templates you can use to help you write a memo. You can browse through the templates and click to download the one you would like to use.
Regardless of the template you choose, your memo should always be single spaced, left justified and include headings to organize your sections. Instead of indentations between paragraphs, you should just skip a line between sentences to start new paragraphs. You can allocate your memo content like this:
- Header: 1/8 of the memo
- Opening, Context and Task: 1/4 of the memo
- Summary, Discussion Segment: 1/2 of the memo
- Closing Segment, Necessary Attachments: 1/8 of the memo
How Long Should a Memo Be?
The most important rule when composing a memo is that less is more. You don’t want your employees or colleagues spending all their time reading your lengthy memorandums (or even worse, ignoring them). Get to the point quickly, so they can take the action you are asking of them.
You’re probably headed for trouble if your memo is running longer than a page. If it does run over one page, it’s best to split the memo by using headings to make it more digestible. Better yet, ask yourself if the scope of the memo is becoming too broad and act accordingly.
Remember that the point of any business correspondence is to elicit some kind of action from your colleagues. Understanding the format of a memo and the proper memo writing style will help ensure that your message—and you—are taken seriously.
Business Memo Template
Memos don’t have to be difficult to create. Microsoft also offers fully customizable business memo templates to download and make your own.
As a small business owner, you’re an expert, too. We want to hear about how you feel about business letters. Let us—and your fellow SBOs—know by sharing a comment below.