What Is a Memorandum? Definition and Examples

Be clear and brief in your internal business correspondence

Memorandum
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons  

A memorandum, more commonly known as a memo, is a short message or record used for internal communication in a business. Once the primary form of internal written communication, memorandums have declined in use since the introduction of email and other forms of electronic messaging; however, being able to write clear memos certainly can serve you well in writing internal business emails, as they often serve the same purpose.

Purpose of Memos

Memos can be used to quickly communicate with a wide audience something brief but important, such as procedural changes, price increases, policy additions, meeting schedules, reminders for teams, or summaries of agreement terms, for example.

Writing Effective Memos

An effective memo, wrote Barbara Diggs-Brown, is "short, concise, highly organized, and never late. It should anticipate and answer all questions that a reader might have. It never provides unnecessary or confusing information." ("The PR Styleguide," 2013)

Be clear, be focused, be brief yet complete. Take a professional tone and write as if the world could read it—that is, don't include any information that's too sensitive for everyone to see, especially in this age of copy and paste or "click and forward."

Format

Start with the basics: to whom the article is addressed, the date, and the subject line. Start the body of the memo with a clear purpose, state what you need the readers to know, and conclude with what you need readers to do, if necessary.

Remember that employees may just skim the memo upon receipt, so use short paragraphs, subheads, and where you can, use lists. These are "points of entry" for the eye so the reader can refer back easily to the part of the memo that he or she needs.

Don't forget to proofread. Reading aloud can help you find dropped words, repetition, and awkward sentences.

Thanksgiving Sample Memo

Here is a sample internal memo from a fictional publishing company informing employees about upcoming schedule changes due to a holiday. Production could also have sent separate memos to separate departments as well if there was more detail that each department needed that wouldn't pertain to the other departments.

To: All employees

From: E.J. Smith, Production Lead

Date: November 1, 2018

Subject: Thanksgiving Print Schedule Change

Production would like to remind everyone that the Thanksgiving holiday will affect our print deadlines this month. Any hard-copy pages that would normally go out to the printer via UPS on a Thursday or Friday during the week will need to go out by 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 21.

Ad Sales and Editorial Departments

  • Make sure that anyone sending you text or images for publication won't be on vacation the week of the 19th. Set deadlines earlier for anything coming from outside. 
  • Please know that internal photography and graphic designers will have more work and less time to do it, so please route your work to the appropriate department earlier than normal.
  • Please do not send "rush" work later than November 16. Any short-turnaround items needed Thanksgiving week cannot be guaranteed to be completed by the earlier deadlines and must go through the scheduler's desk for approval before being assigned. Be early instead.

    Photography and Graphics Departments

    • All members of the art department will be allowed to put in overtime during November as needed to deal with the crunch of the start of the holiday season and the earlier deadlines. 

    Thank you in advance, everyone, for your help in getting materials in as early as possible and your consideration for the production department staff.

    Meeting Sample Memo

    The following is a fictional memo to set up a meeting with members of a team who are returning from a trade show.

    To: Trade Show Team

    From: C.C. Jones, Marketing Supervisor

    Date: July 10, 2018

    Subject: Trade Show Return Meeting

    Upon your return to work Friday, July 20, from the trade show, let's plan a noon lunch meeting in the east wing meeting room to go over how the show went. Let's plan to discuss what worked well and what didn't, such as:

    • Number of days in attendance
    • Amount and types of marketing materials provided
    • Booth Displays
    • How the giveaways were received
    • The location of the booth and traffic at different times of day
    • What sparked interest in passersby
    • Booth staffing levels

    I know that when you get back from a trade show you have a million things to follow up on, so we will keep the meeting to 90 minutes or less. Please come prepared with your feedback and constructive criticism on the marketing aspects of the show. Existing-customer feedback and new customer leads will be covered in a separate meeting with product and sales teams. Thank you for your work at the show.

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "What Is a Memorandum? Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, May. 20, 2018, thoughtco.com/memorandum-memo-term-1691377. Nordquist, Richard. (2018, May 20). What Is a Memorandum? Definition and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/memorandum-memo-term-1691377 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is a Memorandum? Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/memorandum-memo-term-1691377 (accessed May 21, 2018).