Writing Business Memos

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.


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


Subject: or Re: Concise statement of the memo’s topic


• 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.