How To Write an Excellent Memo

Are memos outdated? Aren’t they from the businesses of yesteryear? Don’t people just write emails? Isn’t the future of business on the Internet now? Sure, but even emails need to communicate effectively. Writing an email is very similar to writing memos and a skill that is required in today’s business.

A few tips on writing memos (via emails or otherwise) follow:

Organize and simplify. What’s the purpose of the memo (or email)? And who is it for? You should know what the memo needs to accomplish and who you want to accomplish it. For instance, if you’re instructing employees to not use next-day shipping services, but asking them to use two-day shipping services instead, make that clear. And make sure every employee knows the memo is applicable to them.

What’s the next step? Many memos state obvious facts (e.g., the above memo about shipping; we are using too much next-day shipping services), but forget to tell the next step (e.g., please use two-day shipping services from now on). Make sure you are clear with your memo and instruct the readers of the memo what to do after they read it.

Ask for feedback. For sensitive memos, enlist the help of others. Ask coworkers or your supervisor to read the memo (or email) to make sure your instructions are clear and that readers will know what to do without any confusion. If you have problems with spelling or grammar, you might have a few people read for proofreading purposes. You’ll be glad you did.

Let it cool off. Before you send the memo (email or otherwise), let it cool off a bit. Move on to another task and let it sit. When you’ve accomplished a few other tasks, come back to the email (or memo) and then reread it for sense, clarity, and purpose.

Another question: Should you use paper memos or email? Many companies use email only, citing the savings of paper and ink supplies. They also cite the ability for employees to archive all corporate emails long term. However, other companies cite the email overload problem and have returned to important memos on paper.

Many companies strive to lessen the amount of memos handed out or emailed around just because of the problems their employees experience comprehending it all. If you follow the above steps, you’ll enjoy clearer memos and better-informed employees.