A memorandum (or memo for short) is a written message, which is used within an organisation to convey information. The memo is important in keeping the different parts of an organisation in touch. It is a very effective way of communicating because it is a written record of the information and can be referred to at any time. Also, detailed information can be accurately given, and the memo can reach many people at the same time. By way of analytical extension, memoranda are brief informal reports used to establish a record. They generalise the communication process by transmitting the message from one or more writers to one or more recipients. Email messages usually take the form of memoranda.
The memorandum is among the most versatile of organisational documents. From brief research reports and progress reports, to trip reports, and thumbnail proposals, the memo form is widely used to communicate technical and administrative information. Memoranda are written for numerous internal purposes, for example, to request information, to make announcements, to outline policies, and to transmit meeting minutes. Thus, in most organisations, memos play a crucial role in establishing a record of decisions, requests, responsibilities, results and concerns.
The distinctive element of the memorandum is its heading, which is used to frame the message in a very accessible and transparent manner. This information sets out the contents of the message and should be detailed enough to make the context very clear. The topics of the memorandum are organised in order of importance, with the key statements first and the details further down. The memorandum should typically begin with a summary statement, in one or two sentences, identifying the key topic and the scope of the memorandum.
For the simple fact that your memo may be subject to a public record request, it should, therefore, justify an investment of time and effort since the memo will reflect you to your peers and supervisors. Your memo must be clearly written and effectively communicate the intended message. A poorly written memo can send mixed messages which may result in an unwanted response.
Strictly speaking, a memo should be written on an 8.5” x 11” company letter headed paper. The letterhead should appear at the top of the first page: plain paper is used for all subsequent pages of longer memos. There are at least six parts of the memo: the letterhead, the heading, the introduction, the body, the conclusion, and the closing.
Sample Memo Header Format
This is a sample format for any memo. Single space your lines, and enter the heading four lines below the letterhead. Insert two spaces between the end of the sentence and the beginning of a new sentence. Insert two spaces between paragraphs, and do not indent the first line of a paragraph.
When using letterhead paper, and allow 6 to 8 spaces at the top of the page for the letterhead to appear when printing. Always use a standard font style and a 12-point type. 10-point is too small, and 14 is too big. Use the bold and italics features. They are useful as an occasional attention grabber but be careful not to go too far by overusing them. Fancy type styles such as Shelly Volante Modern and Letter Gothic are not appropriate for a professional office setting and can be distracting. Use Times New Roman.
Always use left justification. In left justification, the left margin and appears as a clean line while the right margin is jagged. In full justification, the spacing is uneven between the words. The computer will automatically adjust the spacing between words, so the margins on both edges are clean and straight. While some readers initially find is pleasing to the eyes, was fined uneven spacing between words are distracting.
Use your spellcheck to correct mistakes, but never or over rely on your spell check when it comes to editing. Remember your name will appear in everything you read, so take pride in your work. If words are properly spelt but improperly used, the spellcheck may not be able to help you out.
For example, all the words these days on Microsoft Word automatically changed to make American English, with the British English equivalents underlined as errors. Equally, when a spellchecking command is used to correct errors, the suggested correct versions offered are those of American English.