In business, diplomacy and institutions like the air force and navy, memorandums can take on a more serious format, relaying important information, or outlining an agreement between two parties. The latter is sometimes called a memorandum of understanding or agreement, and is common between governmental departments or companies that need to work together to meet a goal. A memorandum of transmittal usual accompanies a larger report, and is used as a record of delivery and to summarize the report. Office memos are used to notify employees of specific changes, events, or any other point of interest that is important. For example, if there is an after work party on a specific date, a memo might be circulated to everyone letting them know the date and time of the party. Memos are usually informal and used for almost anything.
A memo (or memorandum, meaning “reminder”) is normally used for communicating policies, procedures, or related official business within an organization. It is often written from a one-to-all perspective (like mass communication), broadcasting a message to an audience, rather than a one-on-one, interpersonal communication. It may also be used to update a team on activities for a given project, or to inform a specific group within a company of an event, action, or observance.
A memo’s purpose is often to inform, but it occasionally includes an element of persuasion or a call to action. All organizations have informal and formal communication networks. The unofficial, informal communication network within an organization is often called the grapevine, and it is often characterized by rumor, gossip, and innuendo. On the grapevine, one person may hear that someone else is going to be laid off and start passing the news around. Rumors change and transform as they are passed from person to person, and before you know it, the word is that they are shutting down your entire department. One effective way to address informal, unofficial speculation is to spell out clearly for all employees what is going on with a particular issue. If budget cuts are a concern, then it may be wise to send a memo explaining the changes that are imminent. If a company wants employees to take action, they may also issue a memorandum. For example, on February 13, 2009, upper management at the Panasonic Corporation issued a declaration that all employees should buy at least $1,600 worth of Panasonic products. The company president noted that if everyone supported the company with purchases, it would benefit all. While memos do not normally include a call to action that requires personal spending, they often represent the business or organization’s interests. They may also include statements that align business and employee interest, and underscore common ground and benefit.
A memo has a header that clearly indicates who sent it and who the intended recipients are. Pay particular attention to the title of the individual(s) in this section. Date and subject lines are also present, followed by a message that contains a declaration, a discussion, and a summary. In a standard writing format, we might expect to see an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. All these are present in a memo, and each part has a clear purpose. The declaration in the opening uses a declarative sentence to announce the main topic.
Tips for Effective Business Memos
• Audience Orientation: Always consider the audience and their needs when preparing a memo. An acronym or abbreviation that is known to management may not be known by all the employees of the organization, and if the memo is to be posted and distributed within the organization, the goal is clear and concise communication at all levels with no ambiguity.
• Professional, Formal Tone: Memos are often announcements, and the person sending the memo speaks for a part or all of the organization. While it may contain a request for feedback, the announcement itself is linear, from the organization to the employees. The memo may have legal standing as it often reflects policies or procedures, and may reference an existing or new policy in the employee manual, for example.
• Subject Emphasis: The subject is normally declared in the subject line and should be clear and concise. If the memo is announcing the observance of a holiday, for example, the specific holiday should be named in the subject line—for example, use “Thanksgiving weekend schedule” rather than “holiday observance.”
• Direct Format: Some written business communication allows for a choice between direct and indirect formats, but memorandums are always direct. The purpose is clearly announced.
• Letters: Letters are brief messages sent to recipients that are often outside the organization. They are often printed on letterhead paper, and represent the business or organization in one or two pages. Shorter messages may include e-mails or memos, either hard copy or electronic, while reports tend to be three or more pages in length. While e-mail and text messages may be used more frequently today, the effective business letter remains a common form of written communication. It can serve to introduce you to a potential employer, announce a product or service, or even serve to communicate feelings and emotions. All writing assignments have expectations in terms of language and format. The audience or reader may have their own idea of what constitutes a specific type of letter, and your organization may have its own format and requirements. Letters may serve to introduce your skills and qualifications to prospective employers, deliver important or specific information, or serve as documentation of an event or decision. Regardless of the type of letter you need to write, it can contain up to fifteen elements in five areas. While you may not use all the elements in every case or context.
When to Write a Memo, Not an Email
Before emails demanded everyone’s attention, people communicated internally through a medium called the interoffice memorandum—the memo. We typed and printed it, signed or initialed it, and distributed it through interoffice mail to people who read it to make decisions, take action, or have essential information. These days we have replaced memos with rampant emails. We have pushed email too far, expecting it to communicate long, complex, important messages to everyone. Our inboxes are stuffed, and those essential messages are not being read. It’s time to take the pressure off emails. If you want people to read your important ideas and information, you need to revive the memo. Consider these suggestions:
• Recognize the best uses of email: Emails win for fast, temporary communications that readers quickly read, act on, and delete. Emails excel at succinct requests and replies, speedy updates, short reminders or check-ins, time-sensitive announcements, and similar short-lived messages. They are perfect for briefly introducing attachments such as memos.
• Use a memo when you are writing a message built to last: If your communication is a detailed proposal, a significant report, a serious recommendation, a technical explanation, meeting minutes, a new policy, or something else that readers will consult more than once, make it a memo. Your readers will be able to save the document, read it, and find it when they need the information again.
• Use a memo when formatting matters: If the piece contains bullet points, bold headings, columns, tables, a graph, or even a good balance of white space, a memo will help you retain that formatting. To guarantee your formatting, save the memo as a PDF. If your audience reads emails on their phones, an attachment may be the only way to preserve the formatting you intend.
• If people will print your communication, use a memo rather than an email. If your message belongs on a bulletin board—for example, in an employee break room—write a memo. If people will discuss your ideas at a meeting, write a memo to make it easy for them to print the document you intended.
• To communicate formally, choose a memo. Memos provide a place at the top of the message to insert the company name and logo and the professional titles of senders and receivers. Those inclusions make the message appear more formal. Also, a well-formatted message conveys significance.
• When you worry that your message is too long as an email, write a memo. Impossibly long emails often result when you try to incorporate important, lasting information in them. But memos work best when people will return to your message for information. For instance, if you are communicating the details of the four-stage construction project, use a memo. To convey pros and cons of a major purchasing decision, lay out your research in a memo. Attach your memo to an email that gives your readers a brief summary of the memo contents. For some readers, that summary will be enough. Those who need the information will read and save the memo.
• To communicate complex information to people outside your organization (clients, citizens, etc.), consider a memo or a letter. A letter is the traditional format for external correspondence, especially to people you serves, such as customers and patients. But you can choose a memo to write to vendors, consultants, members, clients, professional peers, and others who collaborate with you to get results.
• To send your memo, simply attach it to a brief email. Or send a printed copy through interoffice mail if that approach makes sense.
• Avoiding Distortion of Information: Memo helps to avoid distortion in messages that occur in internal oral communication.
• Avoiding Misunderstanding: Memo provides all concerned with the same information. Therefore, there is little chance of any misunderstanding between the recipients of a message.
• Preserving Information: Since memo is a written document, it can be preserved. Such preservation develops an information base in the organization and any one can access it whenever he needs.
• Maintaining Consistency: Memo also helps managers to maintain consistency in their actions and decisions for recurring problems. By examining the previous records, they solve similar problems in a similar way.
• Quick Exchange of Information: The use of memo is restricted within the boundary of the organization. Therefore, through writing memo any information can be exchanged throughout the whole organization very quickly.
• Concise Presentation of Information: Memo is generally written concisely. Whatever the subject of memo is, it is written directly and concisely.
• Less Expensive: Memo is a less expensive medium of communication. It does not require any mail or telephone expenses.
• Use as Reference in Future: Since memo is a written document, it can be preserved and used as reference in future.
• Memo is a written means of internal communication. Although it is widely used in exchanging information within the organization, it has some limitations. The followings are some of its major disadvantages or limitation of using memo:
• Limited Field of Application: The use of memo is restricted only within the boundary of the organization. It cannot be used in communication with any external party.
• Not Suitable to the Illiterate People: Office memo is a kind of written communication. Therefore, it has no utility to the illiterate people.
• Lace of Explanation: Memo is generally written concisely. Therefore, it does not provide any explanation or clarification of message to its readers.
• Problem in Modification: If memo circulates any wrong information inadvertently, it cannot be revised instantly. For necessary rectification, it requires circulation of corrigendum.
• Time Consuming: Formal memo requires time for drafting and circulating it to the various parties.
• Opening Segment: In this segment, one can find the purpose of the memo. The opening paragraph includes the reason or the motive of writing a memo. It gives a brief overview of the memo.
• Context: It is the event or circumstance of the problem the writer is solving. One should clearly mention the context.
• Task Segment: It is the segment one must include to mention the steps for solving the problem. One must only include the needed information. Do proper planning before writing a memo.
• Summary Segment: If a memo is more than a page, one must include a separate summary segment. It is not necessary for a short memo. It helps the reader to understand the main idea of the memo. Also, it helps to take the required steps.
• Discussion Segment: It is the longest part of a memo. It includes all the details supporting the ideas. Remember to start with general information and then go for more specific one. It includes supporting ideas, facts, and research.
• Closing Segment: Always end your memo with courteous words. Make sure you make the completion of the task in an efficient and easy way. Try to lure the reader to make the positive action.
• Necessary Attachments: One can also attach lists, graphs, tables etc. at the end of a memo. Make a reference for your attachments and add a notation for them.
Memos are pretty flexible documents and can be used for many different purposes. Memos can also serve as:
• Documentation or a record, such as for documenting an accident at work or recording the reason for terminating an employee
• Confirmation regarding decisions or the date and time of future events
• Status and progress reports
• Dissemination of rules and procedures
• Instructions or directives, such as delegation of tasks and responsibilities
• A method to inquire about an organizational procedure, event, or other organizational issue
• A preface to a formal report
An effective memo is “short, concise, highly organized, and never late. It should anticipate and answer all questions that a reader might have. It never provides unnecessary or confusing information.” Be clear, be focused, be brief yet complete. Take a professional tone and write as if the world could read it—that is, don’t include any information that’s too sensitive for everyone to see, especially in this age of copy and paste or “click and forward.”
Start with the basics: to whom the article is addressed, the date, and the subject line. Start the body of the memo with a clear purpose, state what you need the readers to know, and conclude with what you need readers to do, if necessary. Remember that employees may just skim the memo upon receipt, so use short paragraphs, subheads, and where you can, use lists. These are “points of entry” for the eye so the reader can refer back easily to the part of the memo that he or she needs. Don’t forget to proofread. Reading aloud can help you find dropped words, repetition, and awkward sentences.
When you need legal help with securities memorandums, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
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