The world of communication is changing rapidly. Digital communication through email, WhatsApp, Slack or Teams or text dominates offices across the world today.
Whatever the medium, one thing remains unchanged: the office memo. Companies still use memos to communicate policies, procedures and other business-related information within an organization.
What is a memo? Quite simply, a memo is a tool for internal communication in the business world. It could be about something as insignificant as the cafeteria being shut for a few days or something significant like a change in an organizational structure.
What Is The Meaning Of Memo?
A memo, short for memorandum, is usually a small piece of written information used in business environments for interoffice communication. Its core purpose is to give instructions or serve as a reminder of events, actions or decisions. The primary motive behind memo writing is to broadcast information to a large group of people.
A few other ways in which memos are used are:
To recount an event or piece of information
To send a reminder
To pass or circulate information
To highlight an event
To keep an official record of anything
Now that you know what a memo is let’s dig deeper into the process of memo writing.
What Is Memo Writing?
Barbara Diggs-Brown, a communications expert from American University, says memos are most effective when they are “short, concise, highly organized, and timely”.
In other words, memo writing should be clear and focused. When writing a memo, get to the point quickly and don’t provide unnecessary details.
A memo shouldn’t confuse the reader. It should anticipate and answer any questions the reader may have. The tone of a memo is important. Try to keep it informal and friendly. As with any written communication in the workplace, double-check your memos for sensitive information before you forward them to others.
Here are a few handy tips that emphasize the do’s and don’ts of memo writing:
Before writing your memo, it’s a good idea to sit down and remind yourself of these steps:
Write A Draft:
It’s always better to write a draft before you finalize your memo. You can always revisit your draft to add information you may have left out and rephrase your writing to make it more impactful.
Establish Your Purpose:
Memos should have a specific ‘takeaway’. Check your memo to see whether the purpose is established clearly. The takeaway also becomes the subject of the memo.
Define Your Audience:
It’s always beneficial to know the readers you’re sending your memo to. This will help you determine the language and the tone of your memo and ensure sensitive information doesn’t reach the wrong people.
Use Bullet Points:
Bullet points are a great way to ensure that the information is precise and effectively communicated. Large chunks of information can be broken down for quicker understanding by making a list.
Lengthy memos can affect the overall readability and cause your readers to lose interest. An effective way to be concise in your memo writing is to ask yourself, “Can I write this more directly?”
We use memos to communicate different kinds of information. Here are a few checks that will help you write a mindful memo:
Avoid Negative Language:
It’s best to avoid colloquial terms or slang words and keep the tone as objective as possible, especially when conveying something negative. For example, if you are providing feedback, you may want to avoid using sharp words in your memo.
Don’t Rush Your Memos:
Given its brevity and length, you might sometimes take the process of writing memos for granted. It’s always helpful to be on the safe side and proofread memos before sending them out. Review your memos and edit as necessary.
Memos In Business Communication
Every organization has formal and informal channels of communication. When employees informally communicate with each other, using or unofficial channels of communication, they may end up receiving information that’s baseless and untrue. This type of communication is called grapevine communication.
It’s characterized by rumor, gossip and speculation. Hearing something on the grapevine means that an employee has heard some piece of information that’s being passed around in unofficial channels. The grapevine has its advantages but it can also cause unnecessary tension in an organization as it can be misleading and untrue.
Take salary cuts, for example. There may be a rumor that there will be salary cuts in an organization. Before the news is officially confirmed by the top management, employees may start second-guessing their position in the company. Before you know it, some may jump to conclusions about departments shutting down or employee layoffs.
One powerful way of addressing this kind of troublesome speculation is to send a memo, explaining the imminent changes.
A memo in business communication is usually a short document circulated within an organization. Memo writing in businesses should maintain a succinct yet professional style because the intended readers are your peers.
The goal of a memo in business communication can be identifying a problem, proposing a solution or even stating some facts. Whatever the goal may be, your memo should be able to persuade your readers. Harappa Education’s Writing Proficiently course can help you learn how you can structure your thoughts and write them clearly and impactfully. The GRT–Goal, Recipient, Tone–framework will help you present your key arguments objectively and compellingly.
Tips For Writing Effective Business Memos
To make your memos in business communication more direct and easier to understand, you can use these five strategies:
Present The Main Point:
One of the most important things to remember in memo writing is to structure the content around the main point you’re trying to make. Your readers should be able to recognize the intent of the memo easily.
For example, your manager wants to learn about the drawbacks of a new initiative. You write a memo with your points. It should state all the technical or operational problems of the new initiative objectively. You don’t need to justify your points or provide solutions in the memo.
Write In A Straightforward Style:
Different situations require different styles of memo formats. One of the standard approaches is to maintain a professional style and write objectively and directly. Use short sentences in an active voice to keep your readers engaged. Maintain a positive and neutral tone to convey sensitive information delicately.
Have A Subject Line:
The subject of a memo is normally stated in the subject line. A subject line acts as a handy reference for readers who want to know what the memo is about at a glance. The subject line of your memo should indicate the purpose of your memo. For example, let’s say you’re organizing a field trip for your team and drafting a memo saying that everybody is supposed to carry a few essential work items with them. Your subject line could be ‘Essentials for the field trip to JNC’.
Provide A Summary If Needed:
Memos can be used to provide summarized versions of long business reports. For example, if your team leader asks for a summarized report of all the expenditures during the last quarter, you can use a memo format to highlight all the necessary details. This will help you provide an overview or summary in a precise manner. Present your points in separate paragraphs and limit each paragraph to five to six lines. This further helps your readers to skim important details more efficiently.
Format It To Increase Its Readability:
In addition to writing your memos in a specific format, include necessary headings and titles. Headings are an effective way of providing a quick overview of all the major topics that your memo covers. The proper use of formatting elements like white space, bullet points, proper indentations and variations in fonts and text sizes is a nice touch.
Structure Your Memos:
Remember that most memos have a standard structure at their core. Some of the elements that should be a part of your business-memos are:
Write the name of the people you’re sending the memo to near the top of the page.
Place your name immediately below the addressee list.
The date of sending the memo should be placed immediately below the sender’s name, which is your name.
This should be placed immediately below the date and should indicate what the memo is about.
Beginning, Middle And End:
Have a strong beginning, a concise body and a brief conclusion. Try to introduce your problem statement or solution at the beginning itself.
The closing of a memo can be as simple as a signature line. It can include your contact details. However, a closing line isn’t necessary and you may use it at your discretion.
Writing effective memos can bridge the gap between confusion and clarity in your business communication. Stand out at your workplace by using this simple yet effective communication tool to communicate effectively. Sign up for Harappa’s Writing Proficiently course to hone your communications skills for workplace success.
Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics & skills related to the Communicate habit such as Interpersonal Skills, Personality Development, Process of Communication, What is Report Writing, Writing Skills and Self Introduction.