It’s 9 a.m. on Monday, and your email is packed with announcements, updates, and myriad tasks to add to your to-do list. While it’s no longer fax or print-out, the art of the business memo is still alive and well in the digital space. Business memos continue to be valuable pieces of communications that help you and your colleagues keep up with the constant evolution of your company—thus ensuring operations continue to run smoothly.
Understanding how to write a business memo is crucial to generating positive change and progress. So let’s take a closer look at the purpose of a memo, what information it should include, and how to compose one effectively. We also discuss how you can help your entire team improve their business memo writing skills quickly—so you can see results sooner than later.
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What is a business memo?
A business memo is an internal, informative business document. Business memos are like internal press releases; they are ideal for sharing brief yet vital information quickly, often (but not always) with multiple people at once. While less formal than business letters, the language in a business memo should still be professional and polite—particularly when including any action items for the intended recipient(s).
A business memo would be suitable for conveying the following:
- Changes to personnel, including team additions, departures, and role changes
- Updates on upcoming events, such as meetings or company gatherings
- Shifts in everyday operations or workflows
You can use memos to address business challenges and announce solutions. Unlike business proposals or business cases, the purpose of a business memo is not to gain approval for a proposed solution; the solution presented in a memo should already be approved. The purpose of the memo is to announce that it is time to implement a solution and to provide instructions, if necessary, on how to do so.
Memos are best suited for addressing a single issue or change at a time.
What business memos look like today
The Jerry Maguire days of printing out and hand-delivering memos to colleagues are fading fast into the distance. Today, most memos are electronically distributed, shared instantly via email, project management platforms, or text. Even the term “memo” itself is slowly becoming a bit outdated.
A company-wide announcement, for example, might be shared on a Slack channel. Or your IT team can share updates via the company intranet.
However, while the methods by which you may send your memo differ from past norms, the purpose—and formatting—of a business memo have remained largely the same over the years.
How to format a business memo
The purpose of using a business memo to convey a message is to be concise and efficient. Therefore, the formatting of your memo should make the document as easy to read and navigate as possible.
While specific formatting details, such as colors and font, will depend on your organization’s internal guidelines, all memos should clarify the following information in the header (at the top of the document):
- Date: The date on which you send the memo to its intended audience
- To: The name and/or title of the individual(s) or team(s) to whom your memo is primarily addressed
- Cc (Optional): The name or title of anyone else who will receive a copy, if applicable
- From: Your name; usually, this is accompanied by your handwritten initials and possibly your job title
- Subject: A phrase that sums up the memo’s content; think of this as an informal title for your memo
The body of the memo will follow this information—the message you are sending. If the message is straightforward and stated in one or two paragraphs, no special formatting is necessary. But if the issue is a little more complex, headings and/or bullet points can be an excellent way to break up the text and break down the information into more digestible parts.
How to write a business memo effectively
Once you understand how to write a business memo, the next step is learning how to write one effectively. The ideal business memo is a quick and easy read; it should be clear and concise, confident and direct, but not mechanical. Most business memos are no longer than a single page in length, yet they convey all of the necessary information in reader-friendly terms.
Here’s how to write an effective business memo:
- Keep your subject line concise but also precise. Avoid general or vague subject lines like “Upcoming Meeting” in favor of something more specific, such as “Notice of Date Change for Upcoming Marketing Department Meeting.” This way, even busy readers who are only skimming the document will understand what issue is being addressed.
- Lead with the main topic of your memo. It should be clear from the very first sentence what this memo is about. If your memo is on the long side, your first paragraph should briefly summarize the following content.
- Keep your audience top of mind. Tailor the content of your message to your primary audience’s priorities. Consider what matters most to them and emphasize that element early in your message to grab your readers’ attention. For memos distributed across multiple teams, be sure to use language familiar to all, avoiding jargon that only certain team members may understand.
- Include only relevant information. Some supporting information may be helpful, even necessary, to illustrate specific points. However, if you can remove a sentence or paragraph without losing the meaning of your message, it is usually better left out.
- Choose the right tone. All memos should be confident and direct, but be sure to consider your content and audience as well. Sensitive HR issues, for example, require a more empathetic tone than minor scheduling updates. When in doubt, use Grammarly’s tone detector. It evaluates the tone of your memo and its appropriateness for your message, ensuring it’s delivered effectively and sounds exactly as intended.
- Choose the right communication channel. There are subtle but important differences in sharing a memo via email versus posting it in a chat channel or on a private messaging platform, so be sure to choose your channel carefully when sending your message. An urgent update, for example, may be better suited to something like Slack than to an email that may not be opened right away.
- Avoid potentially confusing or misleading mistakes. No matter how simple the message, it’s always important to reread what you’ve written to eliminate typos and other issues that could lead to a misunderstanding. Not only does Grammarly catch typos and grammar mistakes, but it can also detect your tone and make word choice suggestions for clearer writing.
An effective memo improves productivity by getting the right information to the right people as quickly and efficiently as possible. Good memo writing can also improve employee engagement, as team members typically feel more connected to a company when they are kept “in the loop.”
Quickly improve your team’s business writing skills
On an individual level, learning how to write an effective business memo takes a bit of practice, but will ultimately help you and your team members communicate and collaborate more confidently and efficiently. However, you may not have time to develop your business writing skills slowly—so how can you and your team start making improvements now?
The team at Zapier faced similar challenges and implemented Grammarly Business to increase consistency and improve communications across internal teams. Here’s how your organization can replicate their success:
- Consolidate existing communication guidelines into a single, internal brand style guide. This will help get everyone on the same page regarding the usage of company-specific terms. Meanwhile, clearly laying out situation-specific guidelines will help improve writing quality in various areas—including memos.
- Encourage improvement across teams. Share your style guide with every member of your team, but be sure to share it outside of your team as well. This will minimize the chances of miscommunication even when collaborating with other departments in your organization.
- Streamline the editing process. While you and your team should always have time to reread your own work, the reality is that the business world moves fast. Implementing a virtual business writing tool like Grammarly will allow you and your team to check documents against a customizable style guide while also proofreading for mistakes in spelling, grammar, diction, and tone—all in a matter of seconds.
Remember: An effective memo leads to smoothly implemented solutions; a poorly written one could cause miscommunications, significant setbacks, or even failure. An investment in effective communication is an investment in your business’s future.
Grammarly Business can help your team swiftly learn how to write better business memos, improving writing skills by up to 72% in just six months. To learn more or get Grammarly Business for your team, contact us today!