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 acceptable (e. g. “as per CLQ regs. ” or “this is consistent with RM-30”). Further, an informal or conversational style with short forms is also acceptable, particularly when the memo is being written to a colleague. Note that the reason for communicating by memo rather than by phone or personal visit, is so the sender and recipient have written evidence concerning the subject at hand.
Therefore, the language chosen must be clear enough that there is no doubt as to how the subject will be treated and what course future actions will take. The reality is many memos are written to protect the writer rather than inform the recipient. Business Communication Resources Alred, G. J. , Brusaw, C. T. , & Oliu, W. E. (2006). The business writer’s handbook (8th ed. ). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Guffey, M. E. , & Almonte, R. (2013). Essentials of business communication (7th Canadian ed. ). Toronto: Nelson. (includes sections on resumes, cover letters, speaking skills and career search) Guffey, M. E. , Loewy, D. , Rhodes, K. Rogin, P. (2013). Business communication : Process and product (4th Brief Canadian ed. ). Toronto: Nelson. (includes sections on resumes, cover letters and career search) Locker, K. O. , Kaczmarek, S. K. , Braun, K. (2010). Business communication: Building critical skills (4th Canadian ed. ). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Harty, K. J. (2008). Strategies for business and technical writing (6th ed. ). New York: Pearson Longman. Lindsell-Roberts, S. (2006). 135 tips for writing successful business documents. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. Davis, K. (2010) The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course in Business writing and Communications.
New York: McGraw-Hill. Hogue, A. (2004) The Essentials of English: A Writer’s Handbook. White Plains, NY. : Pearson Education (lots of grammar/punctuation resources) Strunk Jr. , W. & White, E. B. (1999 or 2011) The Elements of Style. New York: Pearson Longman (brief classic guide to common writing mistakes and corrections) Zinsser, W. (2006) On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction. New York: Harper (another very brief classic guide considered helpful by most writers) Online Writing Lab at Purdue University: http://owl. english. purdue. edu/owl/ (arguably the best online resource, covering a broad range of useful topics)