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Writing office effective memos

Emails may be replacing inter-office memos overall, but the memo still has its place in many larger companies. Yet many memos (past and present) are not always treated with respect as many have been so poorly written or produced for the sake of having a memo.

So here are some tips to make your memos worth reading…

  1. keep it short – it is not a letter or a procedural manual.  A memo is about giving some important information quickly so get to the point and leave out unnecessary information
  2. remember that you are writing to colleagues not customers so it’s ok to write something like “see Sue for a copy” or “in the main foyer” as everyone will understand
  3. be personal – you know the people you are writing to so it doesn’t have to be very formal. “Call me”, “pop into my office” or “let me know” are much friendly than “don’t hesitate to call me” or “reply by fax”
  4. be polite and show respect, even if the memo is pointing out something negative. Compare “we need to improve customer service so…” with “you are all really bad at customer service so…”
  5. use personal terms – you, me, I, we – to maintain a connection with your readers
  6. be specific so staff know what is needed – “the renovations start on Monday so please clear your desk by 4pm Friday” or “reports are now due by 10am Tuesday” are clear and easy to comply with
  7. make it clear who is getting the memo – I don’t want to waste time passing it onto my team if they already have it but I also don’t want them to miss it; if it is sensitive, it helps to know who else is reading the information
  8. most importantly, don’t write a memo unless there is actually a need to do so – sending out lots of memos loses their effectiveness no matter how well you write them.

Of course, these same rules apply to important internal emails, too.

Have you received any really bad memos? What made them stand out as bad?

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