Business Writing – The Memorandum

In business writing, the memorandum is a common document. Typically it is a short informational message sent from one person in an organization to another. In business writing, the memorandum is sent in a number of different formats: e-mail (most common), electronically formatted and published emailed document, e-mail with an attachment, or hard copy. Often, the hard copy memo is a back-up for one that has been sent electronically.

How to set up a memorandum Memos are set up in a specific format. The document usually has four tags: To – (enter the name of the primary receiver(s) of the message here; From- (enter your name if you’re the author) Subject – (no more than six words describing the memo’s main point, and Date – This is usually today’s date, the date the memo is being sent. An additional memo tag is “CC”, which technically stands for “carbon copy” and is meant for secondary readers, those to whom the message is also of interest.

Structuring routine memos Most business messages are informational and written with a clear and direct opening explaining the main purpose and point of the messages (this is called front-loading). The middle paragraphs or sentences, give more concrete details, developing the message, and finally, the close winds the message down, ends on a note of goodwill and requests any follow-up.

Requests In business writing, the memorandum is also used for routine requests. These are structured with the direct query somewhere in the memo’s opening. That can be uncomfortable to those who prefer to beat around the bush in the opening and are unaccustomed to asking for anything directly up front. Don’t be shy; be direct. Since this request is not meant to be terribly controversial or persuasive, the expectation is that reader will be receptive to the request. The body of the memo, then, develops some contextual details, and the close winds down, often giving an end date for the request to be met and asks for additional follow-up if necessary.

Different situations Memos can also respond to requests, describe a new procedure, or announce some major news. They can be fairly short, such as the invitation to the company picnic. Or they could take up about a screen full of type (anything longer should be sent as an attachment, since the reader’s on-screen attention is fairly limited, and typically, he or she is usually busy).

Writing Style Use plain English and simple words, and keep the tone fairly conversational, using the active voice (please not the passive!). Be sure, too, to avoid using any type of Instant Messaging abbreviations (to ensure that your document has a professional tone). Also, as with any written document, don’t forget to edit and proofread your work.