What Is the Format of a Memo?

Kelly Spors

As your small business or organization grows, odds are that you’ll need to write plenty of short and direct communications to your staff—which means you’ll need to know the format of a memo.

A memo, or memorandum, is one of the most common forms of business communication. While there are many types of business letter formats, the format of a memo is an entirely different animal. 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.

A well-written business letter is made up of seven basic parts, which may include an enclosures line as needed. The format of a memo 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.

Traditionally, you would print out a memo and distribute it to the relevant parties inside your small business. 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 do you write a memo?

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, businesslike 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.

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.

What is a memo written for?

While the format of a memo should generally stay the same, 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 memo is comparable to jumping up on a desk in the office to tell 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.”)

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.

What is a memo sample?

Here’s an example of what a memo might look like:

MEMORANDUM

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.

How do you get a memo template on Word?

Microsoft Word includes more than a dozen featured memo templates you can use. You simply browse through the templates and click to download the one you would like to use.

If you decide you don’t like the style or the theme while you are working on the memo, you still can change the whole document by applying a new style set or theme:

  • In Word 2016 and Word 2013, the choices are under the Design tab.
  • In Word 2010 and Word 2007, go to Page Layout > Themes.

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 writing style will help ensure that your message—and you—are taken seriously.

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.

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