memorandum writing pdf

memorandum writing pdf

Effective Strategies for Writing Professional Memorandums

1. Introduction to Memorandums

This handout will describe how to create a basic structure that highlights critical elements of a memo and how to use it effectively. It will also describe specific situations where memos are commonly used. Overall, however, there are a few general guidelines that are critical to follow when writing a memo. These include addressing your readers, stating purpose clearly, both developing and ending your thoughts, being clear and using bullets or numbers for complex information, and being concise. Following specific memo applications discussed in this guide will provide you with the basic tools of successful business writing.

Memorandums typically involve official correspondence with individuals or other groups inside of your organization. They integrate multiple communication skills (e.g., persuasion, positive and negative messages, meeting planning, conflict resolution) and give you the necessary practice to succeed in today’s corporate environment. In short, for a professional who is beginning his or her career, a memorandum becomes an important part of building a professional reputation. It may precede face-to-face interaction with your readers. Thus, thoughtful and clear writing can help to create a good impression of you and your organization. With the emphasis on workplace writing increasing, it’s certain that you’re likely to find yourself drafting many memos, messages, and letters during the course of your career.

2. Key Components of a Memorandum

The opening paragraph of a memorandum should make the purpose clear, who the memorandum is from, who it’s addressed to, and the date the material is needed back. It should also state who, what, where, when, and why clearly, and what the writer is asking for or giving information about. The tone should also be courteous. The purpose of the body is to fill recipients in on all the details, put forth the necessary background information, and make clear what action is expected. All recommendations and special information that is to be used should be laid out as well as arguments should be presented in a convincing order. Segment the body with double or triple space paragraphs. After the body, there should be an ending read out the purpose again and mention any attachments included. Make any references to other memos written or forms filled out. If no further action is needed, make that clear. The closing should also be courteous and have a thankful tone. Always remember to gauge the degree of directness of every memo based on the information necessary. Be direct, professional and polite.

The key components of a memorandum are the heading, opening, body, and closing. The first part of a memorandum is the heading which identifies the recipients, the sender, the date, the subject, and the writer’s initials. This part can be either placed directly or rotated ninety degrees to the left. The traditional format is to put a list of all the recipients and their departments. The sender’s name is then preceded by the term “From:”, the date is written out in full with the month, day followed by the year, then the subject is followed by the writer’s initials. Always begin the opening paragraph with “Subject:” followed by the topic. The subject should be succinct, indicating what the memo is about.

3. Structuring and Formatting Guidelines

There are specific features to every memorandum. The heading on a memorandum includes specific components and their sequence. The heading is what is hierarchically at the top of every memorandum. Consequently, it is essential that consistent and correct ordering of the components of the heading occurs to ensure that the correct stakeholders are being represented. Date, author’s name, sender’s name, receiver’s name, and subject are the main elements of the header. With the exception of the date, additional formatting is involved in the header to visually structure the components and make the reading of memos more efficient, as is common in other modes of communication. If one were to analyze memos as a series of components and relationships, the heading would be the root with component levels hierarchically below to provide the substructure allowing the reader to discern how the content is organized.

Like any document of importance, professional business writing must be clearly ordered and well-structured. Organizing one’s thoughts can often be as important as the choice of words and grammar in making the message clear, complete, and persuasive. Without an effective writing structure, important ideas and information can get lost. An easy-to-follow business letter format helps guide the reader through the contents. Generally, business letters are single-spaced and left-justified, with each paragraph having special formatting features as appropriate.

4. Best Practices for Clarity and Conciseness

If the memo contains a series of brief paragraphs, consider using bullet points or a list instead of a sentence to introduce each brief paragraph. A bullet list should begin each bullet list. Complete sentences should follow each bullet, and capitalize the start of each. Do not use periods, semicolons, or other punctuation if one brief paragraph does not describe a combination of more than one phase of an idea. If one brief paragraph describes a combination of more than one phase of an idea, use semicolons to separate the components of the idea. In this way, writing a memo by using bullet points instead of a sentence to introduce each idea is like creating a mini-outline of the memo within the memo. This technique refers to the readability of the memo’s macro and micro level, but it serves a third useful purpose. Particularly difficult ideas are more comprehensible when compartmentalized within a series of bullet points, with clear and consistent grammar, punctuation, and transitional elements.

Most professionals find reading a memorandum useful only if they can quickly find what they need to know. During college, students hone their academic writing, which uses complex sentences and long paragraphs. Once students enter a career, they often find that the plea for clarity across all disciplines is justified. Whether you are writing a memo for another person or as a means of communicating your needs, knowing how to write concise paragraphs will enhance readability. Each paragraph should contain a definite idea, distinct from all other paragraphs in the memo, and can usually be summarized in a sentence. Limit paragraphs to 125 words or less to enhance their readability.

5. Common Mistakes to Avoid

First, write with relevance. Relevance means that all aspects of the message remain within the recognized parameters of the type of message anticipated. Be certain to include all necessary details in any transaction, change, procedure, policy, or other extent that should combine appropriate professionalism with a focus on relevance. Second, state the key idea up front. Write with an overt message, and present the main idea with an attention-getting opening that captures the significance of the message. Fill in the details, provide any necessary background, and ensure that memo recipients understand the reasons behind the main points. A third, place only one issue per paragraph. Using a fire prevention analogy from the workplace helps clarify what seize on one idea really means. Each paragraph, like the firefighter, must focus with singular dedication on controlling just one flame. Fourth, write in a clear and candid style. By using this approach, you convey the impression to the reader that you are being professional and responsive to them. Statements that are clear and candid demonstrate a deep commitment to customers and result in increased respect for you personally and for the organization in general. Lists, which appear to be honest, forthright, and straightforward, create a positive image for both the writer and the organization. This builds reader trust and confidence. When in doubt, provide information or positions you perceive to be in the public interest. If more information becomes necessary, you are the proactive source of the problem, and it will help improve customer service. Draw on these strategies to help you perfect the two most common communication applications you use currently—professional report writing and professional communications.

Moderate-length, or professional, memorandums are the most common form of writing in modern business, industry, and governmental organizations. Memorandums are brief, in-house communications, and a properly composed memorandum is highly professional. This piece discusses effective strategies for creating professional communications, the perfect professional memorandum. Written communication is a reflection of quality and professionalism. Therefore, employees at all levels of the organizational hierarchy must be well versed in developing and presenting clear, concise, and quality communications. If readers engage in the following practical strategies, the results will be clear, direct, complete, and error-free correspondence.

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