How to Construct a Business Memo

Read this chapter to learn how to formulate a business memo or email.


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.

Memo Purpose

A memo’s purpose is often to inform and represent the business or organization’s interests, 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.

Memo Format

A memo has a header with guide words that clearly indicate who sent the memo, who the intended recipients are, the date of the memo, and a descriptive subject line. The content of each guide word field aligns. The message then follows the header, and it typically includes a declaration (introduction), a discussion, and a summary.

Figure 4.1.1 shows a sample memo.

To: All employees From: Larry Ogawa, IT Manager, The Widget Research Company Date: June 15, 2018 Subject: New photocopier installations – July 5 On July 5, new photocopiers will be installed in the photocopier room on each floor. The installation will take place from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m. During this time, printing, scanning, and photocopying will not be available. The old photocopiers will be disconnected from the network on the morning of July 5. Technicians will be on-site to simultaneously install the new machines on every floor in order to minimize printing downtime. The new photocopiers have all of the same functionality as the ones they are replacing but will be faster and quieter. Training sessions will be organized so all employees can learn how to use the new machines. More details about these training sessions will be shared by the end of this month. Please direct any questions or concerns to me.

Figure 4.1.1. A sample memo (Melissa Ashman, 2018, CC-BY-NC 4.0 international license)

Five Tips for Effective Business Memos

1. Audience Orientation

Always consider the audience and their needs when preparing a memo (or any message for that matter). 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 to be clear and concise communication at all levels with no ambiguity.

2. Professional Tone

Memos are often announcements, and the person sending the memo speaks for a part or all of the organization. Use a professional tone at all times.

3. Subject Emphasis

The topic of the memo is normally declared in the subject line, and it should be clear, concise, and descriptive. 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.”

4. Direct Format

Some written business communication allows for a choice between direct and indirect formats, but memorandums are almost always direct. The purpose is clearly announced immediately and up-front, and the explanation or supporting information then follows.

5. Maintain Objectivity
Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 10:53 AM