Small Business Management - Memos are the key to business communication

Published: 29th September 2008
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What is memo? Who writes them? Who needs them?

There are three principle methods of written communication in the professions: letters, memos, and emails. While most businesses and organizations use all three on a regular basis, it is the memo that is the most frequently used.

Memos are brief messages that are usually sent between people who have already established a relationship. While letters are often used for formal communication and to establish contact, memos are used to conduct more day-to-day business. Memos have a suggested format, and many organizations develop their own template, but are less formal than a letter.

The heading of a memo contains four simple elements -- To, From, Subject, and Date. Additionally, a CC or BC line may be added if more people should read the information included in the memo.

Employees in all types of businesses and organizations write memos. Memos are sent out to inform of an upcoming event or report on a decision that has been made. Memos are also sent out to request a specific action be taken.

Many times the actual business that is included in the memo was negotiated informally e-mail, phone, or personal communication, but once a decision has been made a memo is created to record the decision or document an action.

Memos are usually short and succinct. Carefully organize the document. It is important to make the purpose of the memo clear at the opening. If your memo includes more than a few paragraphs it is a good idea to use headings to help your reader quickly scan the document for the necessary information. While it is important to report only necessary information, sometimes you may need to provide background or support information so all readers can fully understand the information. The memo should close with the required or suggested action you want the reader(s) to take.

Most memos are a single sheet but it is permissible to have more pages. Print all additional pages on plain paper rather than letterhead. Include three items in the upper right or left corner: the name of the recipient, the page number, and the date of the memo.

Spend time revising and rewording your memo so it is as clear and succinct as possible. Also spend time proofreading carefully for spelling and grammar errors. Often memos will be filed and kept as a permanent record. No one wants their mistakes preserved in the company files.

Learning to write a clear, concise memo is an important skill for many professionals.

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