The Quick and Easy Guide to
Memos & Email

The memo is the most common form of business communication. Less formal than a letter, it is primarily a tool used for an internal audience with knowledge of the organization. Email has become the delivery tool of choice for memos. However, email is also commonly used for external audiences, blurring the line between communication forms.

Memo Format and Style

Memos typically include standard headings (Date, To, From, Subject, CC, etc.) in the front matter at the top of the document. This front matter is followed by the main message. Typically memos are not more than one or two pages long, although they may append or reference additional materials or other documents.

Strategies for effective memos vary somewhat depending on content and source. However, all memos should have a single topic, use a conversational tone and present messages in a concise way. The content of the subject line is especially important, as it determines how attentive the reader will be. The subject heading should be short, but informative and persuasive. Using sub-headings, lists, text formatting, and other visual cues within the body of the memo will aid the reader.

Types of Messages Sent Via Memo

There are three major uses for the memo: Procedure and Information Messages, Request and Reply Messages, and Confirmation (or Denial) Messages.

Procedure and Information Messages

Request and Reply Messages

Confirmation Messages

Special Considerations When Sending Email

Email has become the tool of choice for sending most short messages. Also, the standard set of tools for email seem to fit into the memo format very well. However, especially when writing to an external audience, the memo format may NOT be appropriate for some email messages. Long messages, of course, do not fit this format. Messages that assume an understanding of an organization's structure, values, jargon, polices and procedures may be ineffective for external readers. Any sensitive information about the organization most likely should not sent externally. Finally, the tone of a memo, conversational and informal, may be inappropriate for external audiences.

It usually is appropriate to use email to "cover" or introduce a longer and/or more formal document attached, such as a report, contract, etc. It is also appropriate to use email in place of phone or other communication to make simple requests (for meetings, lunch, etc) or to confirm simple actions (such as receipt of documents). Again, timeliness, cost or other considerations may make email the delivery tool of choice. Whenever sending email, however, the writer should practice proper email etiquette.

Basic Email Etiquette


Written By: George Knox © 2017
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