A memorandum (memo) is used to make announcements, to confirm what transpired during
conversations or meetings, and to request or exchange information. It can be directed to a few
specific people but often addresses a group, entire team or department. It is often written in
the first person (I or we) and ranges from very informal to extremely formal, depending on the
writer and the intended recipients. Its topic is narrow and should be apparent immediately.
Since it is a business document, it is important that the writing be up-front and concise. A good
memo summarizes facts, analyzes pertinent issues, makes a recommendation, and supports it. It
is easy to get overly technical and use unnecessary words to describe a situation; attention to
clarity eliminates any need for the writer to go into lengthy explanations. Remember, too, that a
memo becomes the property of its recipients and is not “private.” Don’t say anything in a memo
that you wouldn’t say in person.
Standard Memo Heading
Though the format for a memo may vary from one organization to another, the standard heading
consists of a series of clearly labeled lines that convey key information about the memo’s
contents and its distribution. The following are standard elements of a memo header:
Date: The date on which the memo is distributed
To: The person(s) to whom it is primarily addressed (sometimes with job title)
cc: Name(s) of anyone else who receives a copy (sometimes with job title)
From: Name of the writer, usually followed by his/her handwritten initials (sometimes with job title)
Subject: or Re: Concise statement of the memo’s topic
Things to Remember When Writing Memos
- Identify your audience before you begin to write.
- Ask yourself, should this be persuasive, directive, or technical?
- Be concise and come straight to the point.
- Maintain a business-like tone.
- Use headings, bullets, and/or numbered lists so key points stand out and the document is easy to read.
- As when writing anything, each paragraph should contain one main idea. Also, try to keep each paragraph short.
- Always proofread very carefully. Check all of your facts.
- Don’t forget to identify any attachments. If not, a recipient would not realize anything was missing.
- Never include a closing. The “From” line eliminates the need.
Sample Business Memo
To: Stephen Powers
From: Dan Smith
Date: July 26, 1999
Subject: Computer problems
We are still having problems with the five new computers we have purchased from Bryan Hansen at the Hometown Computer Company. The problems we have been having include:
- Two notebook computers won’t boot up. Hometown’s technicians think it may be a problem with the motherboards, but they can’t solve the problem.
- One monitor continues to make a high-pitched whining sound.
- Two desktop computers came infected with viruses.
I feel that we should check into sending these computers back and get new ones from another supplier. I don’t feel confident with any equipment from this supplier.
*Sample Business Memo taken from:
Brown, K. G., and Barton, D.J. (n.d.). Brief guide to business writing. Retrieved July, 2006,