The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Memo – A Step-by-Step Checklist

Introduction

Have you ever been in a hurry and had to write a memo? Even if you haven’t, the thought of it might make your palms sweat. Writing a memo can seem like a daunting task–especially because memos are often short and need to be persuasive. That’s why we created this guide to help you get started. It’s a comprehensive list of everything you need to know about writing a memo, from knowing your audience to avoiding common pitfalls. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, this guide will help make sure your next memo is perfect.

How to write a memo on time

Research: If you’re sending a memo to multiple parties, it’s important to have a brief outline to refer to in case the other person has forgotten something.

If you’re sending a memo to multiple parties, it’s important to have a brief outline to refer to in case the other person has forgotten something. Keep it short: Write a memo in a few minutes or less. If you feel it’s too short, you can always write more on the spot, but make sure you know how much to write when you start out.

Write a memo in a few minutes or less. If you feel it’s too short, you can always write more on the spot, but make sure you know how much to write when you start out. Impress your audience: You can create an interesting copy by taking something from your memory or imagination and putting it into writing.

The Importance of Writing Well

The writing of a memo is a critical part of the whole communication process. People need to be able to trust you when you hand them a memo, or they won’t act on it or respond. But while all great memo-writing is great, most is not. The quality of the message is paramount. If it doesn’t tell them why they should buy your product, what you’re going to do to make it happen, or why it’s a great deal, they’re not going to respond. The good news is that if you do it right, the right result will almost always follow.

Remember: No matter how great your message is, you can’t write a perfect memo. It has to be able to convey everything you want to communicate.

It’s All About Structure

Your communication should be focused and well-structured, not full of fluff.

The Basics of Memos

What are memos?

The term “memo” derives from the Latin word “memorare,” which means “to remember.” In fact, memos are often called “notebooks.”

Memos come in a variety of shapes and forms. They can be written on paper or on screen, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re short. In fact, only 15% of the memos created in an American office are more than 10 words long.

The ideal length of a memo is 150 to 250 words. This is short enough that your audience can read and understand the message without getting lost in the content, but long enough that your memo reads well. If you want to show proof of your work or even have a conversation with your audience, it helps to have a memo that’s more than 250 words.

Introduction

Internal communications specialist writing a memo
Memo writing

While writing a memo is an ideal way to take the pressure off of your team, it’s important to remember that you’re working for someone else. As a result, your audience is more likely to be at work in an office setting than you are. Make sure your audience is made up of people who share your skills and experiences. If you write for a small team or an intimate circle, think about who the memo could benefit. For example, if you’re the head of marketing and your company is hiring a new marketing director, your boss might be a good person to send your memo to. If you’re writing to a broader audience, you might not be the best person to write the memo. Even if you’re not sure exactly who you want to include, you should make sure you can provide a general overview of what the position entails.

Body (Content)

It’s not enough to just say something–you need to be able to back it up with proof. It’s essential that your memo’s body is written in a clear and concise way. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be limited to just bullet points and numbers–the body can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be. What you write here is up to you. Just be sure that it answers your document’s initial question.

Query Letter

You might have seen this in a thesis or proposal section: “In the next section…” This is your opportunity to write a letter, not a document. Your writing should establish what this document is about, and it should answer what it is not about.

Conclusion

Determining the appropriate pace for your professional life is not something that only comes with experience, it also depends on what works best for you. A better question to ask yourself is not, “How fast should I work?” but, “How much should I work?”

Eventually, you will need to decide how much effort you are willing to put into your work to get the results you are after. Maybe you will need to allocate a long weekend every two weeks or maybe you’ll get in a long morning run every weekday. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, just make sure that you’re doing what you’re able to do.

Whatever your goals are, take this list to heart and implement it to your daily life. You’ll be more successful when you can constantly find ways to improve.

Writing a Memo for Different Situations

We’ve created this checklist to give you a starting point when preparing a memo that meets your specific needs. Whether you’re in an unfamiliar situation, running a meeting, or just don’t know what to write, this checklist has you covered. Here are some situations we’ll discuss in more detail:

For Beginners

Keep in mind, the most important thing is to stay honest and genuine. Do the best you can to deliver the information in an entertaining, insightful, and natural way. The last thing you want is for your content to come off as patronizing or annoying.

For Internalized Bystanders

In most situations, the first step is getting people on your team familiar with the topic. If you’re the new guy, creating a simple memo outlining the basics can help break the ice and build a rapport.

To Request Something from Someone Else

When you want something from someone else, it’s easy to forget how easy it is to approach them. In fact, many of us make the mistake of waiting until we want something from someone to send them a message or an email.

Even though this is a good general practice, it doesn’t work for every situation. There may be a situation where you want something from someone else right now, but you’re not sure how to approach them.

Luckily, you have an opportunity to communicate with them–by way of a memo. The simplest way to communicate with someone is by email. You can easily compose an email and send it to someone with a subject like:

Someone you know

Someone you don’t know

Trying to reach you

A second email would be to say, “I’m not sure what to say to you, but I want to thank you.

To Give Instructions or Guidance to an Individual or Group

Unless you’re a lawyer or another type of professional with lots of power or authority, a memo is probably one of the last things you want to send. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get fired or demoted for sending a memo, but when you use it to guide someone, you are placing an order in their life. If you decide you’re going to change someone’s entire work life, you can do so because you are making a request for them to think differently and act accordingly.

While you might be thinking that you’re sending the memo because you’re upset about something your employee did, you should be asking them to think of their own roles in the situation. You want them to come up with their own solutions, not take someone else’s side.

To Report Out on Something to Someone Else

Create a thorough list of people who need to be informed about a given report. The main goal is to create a list that covers the most important people within the organization.

Then, generate a list of reasons why this list of people should be informed. Define these reasons, especially if the reason is something that isn’t fully known yet.

Once you have the main bullet points down, write down every item on the list and discuss each. Explain why you believe it will benefit your audience.

List out the important points that should be included in your message. Take into account everything mentioned in the bullet points and re-list them. List out the most important items first, and the following ones second, and so on.

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