From the Latin word ‘memorandum’ which means to call to mind, to recount or to mention, memos are all the more vital even in an age of digital communications where e-mails are often employed. Memos allow the issuer of the message to create a paper trail where those who are intended to receive it initials their acceptance and understanding of what is stated therein. 

Memos are meant to instruct, remind or highlight project status updates, promotions or other personnel changes, policy changes or changes to work procedures or business practices. Therefore, they need to be clear and concise, and like all business correspondence, formal in tone.

An effective memo should contain the following:

Header Information

The header should contain the complete name of the sender and his or her official designation, the date and the subject of the memo. All the recipients of the memo should also be named, and where applicable, their designations. When citing the subject of your memorandum, you need to be specific, such as “procedural changes on the filing of vacation leaves” instead of just “vacation leave.” The reader of your memorandum should already have an idea of what your message is all about at first glance.

Introductory Paragraph

Usually brief and direct, the opening paragraph states the main purpose of the memo and takes up no more than a few sentences as memos are typically just one page long. For memos that are more than one page, the introduction provides not only the purpose of why the memo was issued but also an overview of the entire document.

Body of the Memo

The details of the memo are fleshed out in this section. If there are several, the first to be mentioned should be the most important (and most specific) information followed by less important (and more general) information. In the example above, you may want to start off with what employees need to do when they want to file vacation leaves, and end with the reason why there was a change in the procedure.

Confidential information should not be transmitted via memos; face-to-face meetings should be conducted instead. While memos take on a formal tone and look just like other business correspondence, the use of bullet points to achieve clarity and conciseness is acceptable.

Closing Section

This section gives you the opportunity to restate your earlier points for emphasis. The closing is also where you can make a call to action, like encouraging everyone to follow the procedure to avoid problems with lack of personal during peaks of business cycle. This is also where you can include a list of items that are attached to the memo in case those get separated from the latter, as in the case of memos that are longer than one page. Unlike business letters, you need not include a salutation in the closing section, although it is increasingly becoming more common to include the name of the sender and signature lines.