Guidelines for Memos
A list of resources for good business writing appears at the end of this document. It is strongly recommended that any serious business person consider owning writing resources. Written communication is often the distinguishing factor in determining career success in any business or government environment. The following are general guidelines intended to assist the student attempting to write a business memo for the first time.
A memo (short for memorandum which is latin for thing to be remembered) is used extensively for internal business communication. Every company or government has its own format but typically there is a centered heading “Memorandum” at the top of the page, followed by left indented sub-headings “To:” (followed by “CC:” where appropriate), “From:”, “Date:” and “Subject:”. Note that CC is short for Carbon Copy – individuals who are receiving a copy of the memo for information purposes only. Typically memos are written to announce, clarify, respond, question or address any important issue within the entity. Memos are brief – few are longer than a page – so writers must choose their words carefully. Since they will be read by colleagues, managers, subordinates, etc., a sloppy or inaccurate or long-winded memo can result in readers questioning the competence of the author.
The addressee, any copied recipients and the sender are all identified only by name and title, e.g. John Smith, Manager, Internal Control. Telephone extension numbers or e-mail addresses can also be included, optionally. The Subject line should tell the reader exactly what the memo is about in as few words as possible. Examples are: “New Delivery Schedule for C-920”, “Policy re. Car Pooling”, “Christmas Shutdown Dates”, etc. The body of the memo need not be as formal as a letter since the recipients all work for the same company. Having said that, the more senior the audience, the more formal the style. However, in-house jargon and/or acronyms are...
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