Memos by Andy Albertson

Memoranda, or memos, may be the single most common type of writing in business. You will write them to peers, subordinates, and supervisors in your organization. Even if you work in an organization with “email” – that is, the capacity to send and receive messages by computer – you still will have to compose messages that convey your point with brevity, clarity, and tact.

Almost all memos include the following information at the top of the page:

1. The organization’s logo and the word “MEMORANDUM”
2. The “to” line – indicating the recipient of the memo
3. The “from” line – indicating who is responsible for the memo (Most writers put their initials next to their typed name to show that they have reviewed the memo.)
4. The “subject” line – a brief but specific statement that indicates the subject of the memo to the reader. (Typically, the subject heading is four to seven words long.)
5. The “date” line – the date the memo is written

Some organizations also have a “copies” or “c” (copy) heading. This is used to list the names of persons receiving photocopies of the memo.

Writers should assume their readers have much to do, so the writers should follow these rules:

1. Be clear, brief, and tactful.
2. Memos are rarely longer than one page.


The first sentence of a memo should explain its purpose. A second sentence, outlining the main parts of the memo, usually completes the first paragraph.

The body of the memo features the following:

• Supporting points, with strong points at the beginning and/or end
• Frequent use of short paragraphs, headings, or listed items
• Absolute clarity about what the memo has to do with the reader
• Tactful presentation of any negative news
• Reference to attachments, when much detail is needed

The conclusion of the memo features the following:

• Clear statement of what step should occur next
• Another effort to retain goodwill and cooperation of readers

Adapted from: Technical Communication, 6th Edition, (Markel), and Technical Writing, 4th Edition, (Pfeiffer)
See next page for an example of a memo.

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