Memos have one purpose in life: as the authors of Business Writing
Strategies and Samples put it, "Memos solve problems."
Memos solve problems either by informing the reader about new information, like policy changes, price increases, etc., or by persuading the reader to take an action, such as
attend a meeting, use less paper, or change a current production procedure. Regardless of the specific goal, memos are most effective when they connect the purpose of the writer with the interests and needs of the reader. This handout will help you solve you memo-writing problems by discussing what a memo is, presenting some options for organizing memos, describing parts of memos, and suggesting some hints that will make your memos more effective.
What Is a Memo (memorandum)?
When you think of a memo, what do you think of? Is it a little piece of paper with a cute letterhead that says something like:
"From the desk of ..." or "Don't forget ..." or "Reminders ..."
The message itself may be very simple-something like:
"Buy more paper clips" or "Meet with President at 2:30" or "Mom, we're out of fudge pops."
While these memos are informative or persuasive, and may serve their simple purposes, more complex memos are often needed in an office setting. But don't let that worry you.
Basic Memo Plans
Standard office memos can be approached in different ways to fit your purpose. Here are three basic plans:
The direct plan, which is the most common, starts out by stating the most important points first and then moves to supporting details. This plan is useful for routine information and for relaying news.
The indirect plan makes an appeal or spews out evidence first and arrives at a conclusion based on these facts. This plan is best used when you need to arouse your reader's interest before describing some action that you want taken.
A combination approach can be used for the balanced plan. This plan is particularly useful when relaying bad news, as it combines information and persuasion.
Parts of a Memo
Standard memos are divided into segments to organize the information and to help achieve the writer's purpose.
The heading segment follows this general format:
TO: (readers' names and job titles)
FROM: (your name and job title)
DATE: (complete and current date)
SUBJECT: (what the memo is about, highlighted in some way)
Make sure you address the reader by his or her correct name and job title.
You might call the company president "Maxi" on the golf course or in an informal note, but "Rita Maxwell, President" would be more appropriate for a formal memo.