Writing an Effective Business Memo

“Hey everyone,

Make sure that your reports are on my desk by the end of the day.

Thanks,
Your Boss “

The above business memo will probably be thrown in the trash can, only to be forgotten by every member of your staff. For one thing, it isn’t professional, and for another, it serves no real purpose. Anyone could have written the memo, and your staff probably already knows that their reports are due. You’ve just wasted lots of paper, and you’ve ruined communication with your employees.

Before you send out a business memo, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Will what I have to say directly impact every recipient?
2. Will the recipients care about what I have to say?
3. What is my main reason for sending the memo?

Answering these questions will help you further clarify the list of recipients, the tone of the memo, and the way it is worded.

IMAGE

The memo should be delivered on a sheet of paper only as large as the information needed to fill it. For example, if you need to tell your employees to refill the toner when they’ve used it, you won’t need an entire sheet of copy paper. The message itself will appear insignificant on such a large piece of paper, and will therefore seem insignificant to its recipients.

Don’t type using frilly fonts or hard-to-read colored paper. Make it as professional as possible, and make it as easy to read as you can, using large fonts and plain white paper.

HEADING

The heading for your memo should include the company letterhead, even if the memo itself isn’t a full letter. Directly below the heading should come the following information.

MEMORANDUM
To: (recipients’ names and job titles)
From: (your name and job title)
Date: (the date on which it is sent)
Subject: (the specific topic of the memo)

Place your handwritten initials next to your name and job title to further emphasize that the memo is from you.

SALUTATION

It is unnecessary to address each individual memo to a specific person, unless the memo is intended only for less than five people. Instead, leave off the salutation and simply begin the memo. This makes the memo much easier to read.

INTRODUCTION

In the introduction, concisely state the problem or issue at hand. For example, if a particular shipment has been delayed or if there is a problem with a new product, define that problem here. Give enough details so that the recipients can understand the full extent of what is going on and can make educated decisions at a later time.

After you’ve explained the problem, give the reason for your memo. Are you calling employees to action? Are you calling a meeting? Tell the recipients what they should know about the problem, and if any action is requested on their part.

DISCUSSION

If there are multiple solutions that you are considering, or if there are decisions to be made by the recipients, outline them here. Be as detailed as possible without boring everyone who reads it, and make their options clear. This will prevent misunderstandings later.

CLOSING

Be courteous and kind in your ending, and thank your recipients for taking the time to read your memo. Reiterate what action you want them to take, and thank them in advance. You don’t have to sign the memo – although it is an option – and the entire memo should be less than a page long.

FINAL TIPS

1. Make brief paragraphs separated by headings. Large blocks of text are difficult to read, and are more likely to be overlooked.
2. Use bold and italicized words to emphasize important statements. Headlines should be bolded and underlined to draw the eye of the reader.
3. Use numbered and bulleted lists for scannable information.
4. Make sure that your font size is easy to read, but not so large as to overwhelm the recipient.

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