How to Write a Memo

Woman typing memo

Writing a memo can seem to be a bit daunting at first, but it isn't difficult if you know the steps. As with any business document, it's important to properly format and organize any memo you are writing, as well as to ensure that it's error free before distribution. Follow these four steps when writing a business memo.

Step 1: Create the Memo's Heading

Business memos that will be printed or emailed as attachments should begin with a heading that lists the name(s) of the staff members who will be receiving it. If the memo will be included in the body of an email, this section is not necessary because the email program will provide the information typically included in a memo heading for you.

Example Memo Heading:

A memo's heading typically includes the following lines:

Memo To: Fill in recipient name(s)

From: Sender's full name

Date: Date memo is sent

RE: Specific subject line; a brief explanation of what the memo is about

CC: Names of the person or people who will receive a copy of the memo (optional; use only if the memo is being copied to additional people)

Heading Tips

Follow these tips when creating the heading for your memo:

  • Headings should include the full name (no nicknames) of the person or people who will receive the document.
  • You should also include your full name, and the date the memo was prepared.
  • The next part of the heading is the subject of the memo, which is usually indicated by "RE:", which stands for "regarding."
  • Make the subject as specific as possible. Instead of a general heading such as "New Policy," choose "New Policy for Scheduling Vacations."
  • If the menu will be copied to other people, end the heading with a CC: line. The meaning of CC: in this context is "carbon copy." If you are copying multiple recipients, simply list all the names, being sure to separate each one with a comma.

Step 2: Write the Body of the Memo

The body of a memo is where the information will be conveyed. It includes three key components:

  • Introduction: This should be a short paragraph of two or three sentences that lets people know the reason for the memo in a direct manner.
  • Recommendations or purpose: This section gets to the meat of the message using key points, highlights or background information. It may include supporting detail like facts and statistics, as well as examples and reasons for the memo.
  • Closing: The closing/conclusion of the memo should clarify what action needs to be taken and when it needs to be completed or reiterates the timely news included in the memo.

Step 3: Finalize the Memo Prior to Sending

Proofread the memo carefully before you send it. Make sure that is free from typos and that the document accurately conveys the point(s) you want to get across. Use the following guidelines when evaluating what you have written and make changes as needed.

  • Audience-appropriate: Verify the document is appropriate for the education, background, company status and needs of the recipients.
  • Concise: Remove needless words and keep the memo to one page or less in most circumstances.
  • Coherent: Make sure that the memo structure is simple and logical and that each paragraph is limited to one idea.
  • Readability: Make sure to keep paragraphs short and use bullet points to list key details.
  • Terminology: Use appropriate terminology that the audience can be expected to understand.
  • Factual tone: Verify that the tone is professional and that you have not included emotionally charged words.
  • Appearance: Ensure the finished document is visually appealing and easy to read.

It can be challenging to proofread your own writing, so you may want to have a trusted colleague review the memo once you are fairly certain that it is error-free. Having that second set of eyes can help you catch and correct additional errors.

Step 4: Distribute the Memo

Memos can be distributed in print or email.

Distributing Printed Memos

Planning to distribute your memo in hard copy (printed) format? When you are sure the memo is ready to go, hand-write your initials by your name on the 'from' line, then copy and distribute the document to the recipient(s). Your initials serve as a form of signature on a memo.

Sending Memos Via Email

If you are sending a memo via email, it's a best practice to convert it to a PDF document before sending, so that you can be sure the memo format will carry through to everyone who receives it. One you have done that, simply enter the appropriate email addresses, attach the memo and add a descriptive subject line. You may also want to add a few lines of introductory text in the body of the email directing readers to open the attachment before clicking 'send.'

Printable Sample Memo Template

While you can apply the tips above to setting up and formatting a memo yourself, you may also find it helpful to start from a pre-formatted template. If you'd like to do this, simply click the image below and a customizable template that you can edit, save and print will open as a PDF document in a separate window. If you need help to download the template, check out these helpful tips.

Memo Template

Once the template is open, click anywhere in the document to replace example the text with the details of your memo, being sure to follow the tips outlined above. When you are finished, use the menu commands to save and print.

Different Types of Business Memos

Of course, there are many different reasons you may need to write a memo, and deciding what to say can be challenging. Accounting-focused memos, such as credit memos are debit memos, will be very different from human resources memos used for things like employee discipline, performance reviews, or promotion recommendations. Review these memo examples if you'd like to see additional samples of pre-written memos for inspiration.

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How to Write a Memo