What is a Memorandum?
Are you even wondering what a memorandum (or memo) really is? In a world where most information is available online or sent out in emails, a memo might seem like something from the 1950s. However, they are still around and are a vital part of company communication. Memos are documents sent to an established or set group of individuals with information meant specifically for them. In most cases they are internal company documents sent to employees to provide some sort of information that the employees need to know. And because they provide vital information to the select group they are sent to, memos just might be the most important piece of non-public communication still around.
Tips for Writing a Memorandum
Memos are internal to a company, so there is often some flexibility in what they can contain in terms of wording, acronyms, and assumptions about the knowledge level of the audience. Even so, there are some basic items you should be sure to include in any memo you may write:
- Date, To, From, and Subject
- Information being discussed
And, equally important to the content of the memo, be sure to apply the right style and tone. Remember, this is a company communication, not a blog or social media post.
Also keep in mind the following tips when writing your memorandum:
- Be clear
- Cover the necessary information thoroughly but without needless words
- Limit your memo to one specific topic
How to Write a Good Memorandum
With those tips in mind, let’s write a memorandum to the employees of Paul’s Pizza Palace announcing the new Employee of the Week award. The first lines of the memo are pretty straightforward.
Date: September 1, 2017
To: All Employees
From: Senior Management
Subject: The Triple-P Employee of the Week Award
Moving into the body of the memo, now is the time to consider the tone and style. Tone is the overall way the memo sounds, such as formal or informal (speaking with the leader of a country or talking with your best friend), or perhaps somewhere in between. Being an internal document, the tone should be more formal than not, but it can use words like “you” and “we.” Style is the way the words are put together and used. This pertains more to certain words the memo might contain, such as words and phrases that are unique to the company or industry, such as the “Triple-P” in our example.
The introduction to the memo might then read something like:
“We at Paul’s Pizza Palace are always doing our best to make sure customers at Triple-P, be they dine-in or takeout, have an experience that keeps them coming back and spreading the word. We’ve done this with our Customer Triple-P Pledge of Price, Product, and Politeness. That has made Triple-P the premiere pizza restaurant in the city. Now we’d like to thank you, our employees, for doing your part in making this happen and are happy to announce the Triple-P Employee of the Week Award!”
Now we get to the informative part of the memo where the details are discussed. In our example, the memo might then discuss how employees should always introduce themselves by name to customers, be proactive in meeting customer needs, and encouraging customers to fill out the brief satisfaction survey cards at each table or at the counter and drop them anonymously in the feedback box on their way out of the restaurant. The following paragraph would then tell the employees just what the Employee of the Week gets. It might be a $50 bonus in their paycheck, free pizza for them and their family for a month, or whatever. And, if there are any rules, such as no employee can win more than once every two months, that would also be included.
As this is the most important part of the memo, it has to be clear, thorough, and topic-specific. When considering clarity, does it answer all the questions someone might ask about the information? So you have to cover what the program is, how it’s going to work, and who is involved. Are you thorough? Are there important details you left out or is everything mentioned? In this case, be sure to cover who will be doing the voting, how the votes are tabulated, and how often they are picked up and counted. While you may not go into the details of the prizes, be sure to cover how the winner is notified and how they will receive their award.
Are you focused on the topic? Because a memo is internal to a specific audience, there can sometimes be a tendency to wander into other topics. However, a memo is considered policy until it is superceded, so keep it on topic. For our example at Triple-P, limit the memo strictly to the discussion of the Employee of the Week award. A discussion about employee morale or a suggestion box is something for another memo on another day.
The conclusion of the memo then wraps it all up and reiterates the purpose of the memo. The conclusion for example might read something like:
“Again, we, your managers here at Triple-P, want to thank you for all the hard work you put in every day that has helped make us the place that people think of and come to when they want great pizza in a great atmosphere. Our Employee of the Week Award is our way of saying “Thank You” to you, the employees, because without you this couldn’t happen.”
A Note on Jargon, Acronyms, and Terms of Art
It’s important to remember that a memorandum is going to a designated group of people. These people are going to be familiar with the person sending the memo and have a good idea what it pertains to. This means you have some leeway with the style and don’t have to spell everything out. For Paul’s Pizza Palace, terms like “POS” (point of sale) and “pie” (pizza) would be standard and can be used in a memo with the expectation that they’re understood. Keeping in mind that the memo is internal, any other terms or phrases specific to the restaurant (but not offensive or derogatory) are also acceptable in a memo.
Memos are one of the best ways to communicate specific information to a specific group quickly and easily. While they carry the power of policy, they’re semi-formal and can convey everything from bad news to good news to announcements. They’ve been around for decades and will be around for decades more. With these tips and strategies, you can now confidently write one of your own.