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How to Write a Memo

Of all the forms of business writing, the memo can be the most powerful. Memos are letters that are directed at people you know: colleagues, or associates with whom you are working closely. A good memo is streamlined and clear and can actually be the action plan to help you drive a project to completion. If you know how to write a good memo it can only help your business career and make you into the kind of employee everybody wants on their team.

A good memo can make things happen

A good memo serves as a discussion document for action. It identifies the individuals in the work group, clearly states the objective and ends with a clear call to action. By putting words to good intentions a memo can be an important step toward getting things done.

First Step: Decide if you really need a memo

Believe it or not, the first step should be to decide if the issue that is the subject of your memo is "memo-worthy." If the matter to be discussed is clear and simply stated, maybe you can accomplish your objectives with a phone call or emails. People's desks are already too cluttered with paper so make sure that the subject of your memo is actually complex enough to require a written document.

Your Memo's Title is Important

It is important that the people who receive your memo know exactly what it is about. Take some time to compose your title and make it as clear as possible: "We need to decide who is going to write this year's annual and make the necessary arrangements" or "We Need a Formal Plan to Draw More Traffic to our Website" Memo titles do not have to be as concise as headlines, make them as long as you need, but make them clear.

Who Should Receive a Memo?

Address a memo to the people who are responsible for doing the work. Those who need to be informed should get copied (cc'd). If there is a long list of addressees it is safest to list the names in alphabetical order. This eliminates the issue of deciding who is more important so all addressees can put company politics aside and focus on the content of the memo.

Explain how you memo is organized

In other words, tell your readers about the structure of the memo. It doesn't matter if your memo is two pages or twenty pages as long as you make your organization clear. Example, This memo will focus on 3 main points: "Cheese, Olive Oil and Anchovies." Or "This memo discusses three approaches to developing new business along with the pros and cons for each." This kind of clarity helps the reader to remember the points you want to discuss.

Finish with a Precise Call to Action

State what you expect to happen as a result of your memo. Say exactly what will be accomplished, by whom and by what date.

Put your Draft Aside, then Edit

Nobody is helped by a sloppy, ill-conceived or inaccurate memo. After you complete your first draft put it aside for a while, then come back and edit for clarity and brevity. Also double check for accuracy, make sure all names and titles are spelled correctly, for example. There is a beauty to being accurate, clear, concise that is always appreciated.

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