How to Write Better Memos

…Are the most important in-office medium
…Display diplomacy and political savvy
…Not letters.
…Don’t need a hook, salutation, complimentary closes

Primary Purpose:

1. Inform of problem or situation
2. Nail down responsibility
3. Establish file record


• are the facts? (problem)
• do they mean? (analysis/issues)
• needs to be done? (action/solution)

Secondary Purpose:

1. Serve as basis for formal report
2. Bring personnel up to date
3. Replace personal contact with people you cannot get along with (or see officially)
4. Handling people who ignore oral directions

First paragraph never has a heading and often serves as the summary, especially if memo is longer than a page.

Positive news—put right after intro

Negative news—put at end (Hopefully you will have persuaded the reader for the reasons/offered a buffer by
this point.)

Clarity—Be understandable and brief but not brusque (abrupt and curt) in discourse.


• Subject line is 10 words or less and specific.
• Break up text of document with section titles, lists, bullets, etc.
• Section titles are brief (5 words or so).
• Figures and tables are acceptable to balance your message and your presentation.

Grammar NO-NO’s:
“I feel that…” “I believe that…”
“As said before…”
“It is my hope that I can learn to cook rice pudding…”
“However,”—this word normally CONTINUES a compound sentence, not start a sentence, although this can be
used for effect.

However, I don’t use it very much.

LOOK: Look for the “IT”s starting sentences or paragraphs or in euphemisms like, “John turned on the fog
machine, making it seem like the computer lab was on fire.”

Sentence Structure:
Move main object and verb to front of sentence. The verb is food. Motion and power for the main object is
generated by the verb and needs to be an abundant food. No slow Windups.

Who is kicking Who?

It was then that Bob painted the fence.
Bob painted the fence.

There are 20 students staring at this sentence.
Twenty students stare at this sentence.

1. Main idea first.
2. Avoid technical terms.
3. Limit length and complexity of sentences.
4. Limit content of paragraphs.
5. Offer indentations, bullets, white space, to sell easily.

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