How to write a business memo
Last updated on: March 7, 2023
Do you have important news to share with your colleagues, but you’re unsure how to write a business memo?
You’ve come to the right place.
Business memos are a great tool for quickly informing employees of any changes in their team or company. Although emails, messaging apps, and video conferencing have become the new trends of communicating in the workplace, business memos have persevered and remained one of the most effective ways to communicate in the workplace.
In this blog post, we will go over:
- What a business memo is,
- What a business memo should include, and
- How to write a business memo.
We’ll also provide some examples of good business memos.
What is a business memo?
A business memo is an internal business document. It is used to quickly share brief information among a company’s employees.
You can think of a business memo as a kind of press release for your company.
Business memos are a less formal method of communication than business letters, but you should still remain professional and polite.
A business memo can be used to inform employees of:
- Changes in the workforce, such as someone leaving the company,
- Upcoming events, such as meetings, and
- Changes in workflow, such as taking a day off.
Moreover, business memos are used to inform employees of already-decided plans.
They are not used to start a debate over an issue or seek approval for decisions, but rather to inform employees on what the changes are and what to do about them.
Here’s what Kathy Bennett, a CEO at Bennett, has to say about business memos:
“A business memo is the most convenient way to communicate important information to all of the employees in your organization. Memos are supposed to be an effective way to distribute information that is relevant to everyone, and they ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding up-to-date information.”
Now that you know what a business memo is, let’s look at what a memo should include.
What should a business memo include?
The main characteristic of a business memo is to be concise and informative. Therefore, you should make sure to format and write your memo clearly.
Your business memo should also be easy to read. Dividing it into different sections will help with that.
To write a good business memo, make sure you include these elements:
- Main point,
- Supporting details,
- Call to action, and
- Closing statement.
Now, let’s look at these elements in more detail.
Element #1: Header
The header is the first element of your memo. It contains the necessary information about the sender, as well as the subject of the memo.
Here’s what a header of a business memo typically looks like:
- To: list the recipient’s names and job titles or the name of the department you’re sending the memo to,
- From: list your name and job title,
- Date: write the date when you’re sending the memo, and
- Subject: explain the reason for the memo briefly.
After the header comes the main body of your memo.
Element #2: Main point
Right after the header comes your main point.
There is no need for a greeting of any sort in a business memo, so get straight to the point.
Make sure to explain the main subject in the first one or two sentences of your memo.
For example, if you’re writing a memo about a day off that everyone is having next week, the first sentence should sound something like this:
“The purpose of this memo is to inform you that next Monday, [include specific date], will be a day off for all staff.”
This is important because it makes the reader aware of the point right away and makes it easier to understand and act upon if needed.
Here’s what our contributor, Kathy Bennett, has to say about writing memos:
“List the topic of the memo in the heading and first paragraph. Your staff should know what you’re talking about immediately, as this eliminates the possibility of misinterpreted information or intentions. Employees will read and follow along with memos that are concise and relevant as they’re easier to read and comprehend.”
This is the most important element of the business memo, so make it clear and informative.
Element #3: Supporting details
After presenting the main point of the memo, you can move on to the details.
In the rest of the paragraph, you should provide details and explanations that support your main point.
Whether it be the reasons you decided to implement a certain change in the workflow or why a certain meeting was canceled, this is the time to explain.
Continuing with the example of a day off, you can go into more detail about it now. Perhaps it’s a public holiday or a mandatory day off for a religious holiday. State the reason behind the decision in this paragraph.
Also, think about what kind of questions your coworkers might have, and answer those in this part of the memo. Once again, you shouldn’t go too much into detail, but make it informative enough so the readers can understand why the changes have been made.
Furthermore, you should inform the reader of the timeline of events:
- What changes have already been made,
- When the new changes will take place,
- What the planned changes for the future are.
After this part of the memo, the reader should be aware of the changes and why they happened.
Element #4: Call to action
Next up is a call to action.
This part is optional, as it’s not always necessary for employees to do something after getting a memo. Sometimes a memo is just to inform them of something.
However, sometimes employees will be expected to take certain steps after reading the memo.
Here’s some advice from the Founder and CEO of Cindy’s LLC Services, Cynthia Davis:
“My best advice on writing an effective business memo is to include a clear call to action so that people know what to do after reading it.
Ending a business memo with a clear call to action is important, because it ensures that the memo is not just a passive transmission of information, but a proactive step toward achieving the desired outcome. Without a call to action, the information within the memo may be left unheeded, or employees may not know what specific steps to take in response.”
Therefore, make sure to instruct employees on the next steps they need to take. Consider employees of all levels, and instruct them accordingly.
Make sure to clearly state any deadlines or specific rules that need to be followed.
If no action is needed, make sure to include that information as well, to avoid confusion.
“By providing a clear directive at the end of the memo, such as asking for feedback, requesting a meeting, or assigning a task, employees know exactly what they need to do next. This helps to streamline communication, foster engagement, and ensure that the memo has a meaningful impact on the organization.”
Therefore, if any action is needed on behalf of the employees, make it clear and instruct your staff on what they need to do.
Element #5: Closing statement
To finish off your business memo, include a closing statement.
Refer back to the main point and reinforce it. This is also the time when you instruct the reader to contact you if they have any questions.
At the very end of your memo, include a footer.
This can just be as simple as a “thank you” followed by your name.
You can also add your contact information, such as your email address. This way, employees can reach you if they need clarification on anything related to your business memo.
However, this can be somewhat redundant seeing as we mostly communicate online, so your staff probably already has your email address.
If applicable to your business and industry, you can add a phone number for contact information.
In any case, include a footer to mark the end of your memo — don’t just cut it off.
Example of an effective business memo
To help you better visualize what a business memo is supposed to look like, let’s look at a couple of examples.
For the first example, we have a more informal way of delivering a business memo — through a business messaging app.
Team communication apps are a great way to quickly communicate with your coworkers and share important information. It can be less formal than sending an email, but corporate communication doesn’t always have to be formal.
Here’s how Joan Miller informed her team about a meeting cancelation in Pumble, a business messaging app:
If you want a more formal way to communicate, sending out an email with an attached document can be a good option.
Here’s an example of a business memo sent through email in the form of a pdf document:
Business memo templates
A great way to write consistently good business memos is to have a template ready.
You can have a template of a business memo and share it with all of your staff. This way, you can have a universal style and structure of a memo. This will make it easier for the writer of the memo, as well as the reader.
We have designed a business memo template that you can download and use.
🔽 Download our free business memo template here.
You just need to change the relevant information to fit whatever you’re trying to say, but the structure can remain the same. This way, you don’t have to rack your brain every time you need a business memo.
How to write an effective business memo?
Now that you have the necessary information about what a business memo should look like, let’s focus on making it effective.
Always keep in mind that a memo should be:
- Direct, and
- Easy to read.
Let’s go over some tips on how to write an effective business memo.
Tip #1: Know your audience
Before you start writing your memo, think about who you’re writing to.
A memo to just the colleagues on your team will surely sound different than one written for the whole company. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be professional when writing to people who you work with more closely — always remain professional. But, a memo for your boss will carry some extra weight, so write accordingly.
Here’s what our contributor Andrew Chen, a CPO at CommentSold, has to add:
“The purpose of the memo should dictate its tone. Memos are typically used for internal communication, so it’s best to keep the tone friendly, yet professional. Ensure that the memo does not contain any personal bias and remains objective. Also, keep in mind that business memos often relate to company procedures and policies and can have legal standing.”
Furthermore, pay attention to your language.
If you work in a multicultural environment, make sure to write your memo in a language that everyone understands.
Keep your audience in mind while writing your memo.
Tip #2: State the subject right away
First of all, make sure your subject line in the header is clear and direct.
Don’t go too general, but keep it short.
For example, you’re sending out a memo about a rescheduled meeting. The subject line should say “Today’s meeting rescheduled for tomorrow”, rather than “News about the meeting”.
This way, everyone who gets the memo will understand what it’s about, even without going through it.
The same rules apply to the body of the text.
The most important thing to remember is to state the subject of the memo as soon as possible.
Ideally, you should state the reason for the memo in the first sentence of the body of the memo. If needed, it can go up to two sentences, but not longer than that.
Again, make sure to be specific and direct. State exactly what the reason for the memo is without going into too much detail at this point.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Direct communication in the workplace is an important skill to have. To learn more about direct communication and how you can implement it in your workplace, check out our blog post:
Tip #3: Be concise and precise
A business memo is, by definition, a short piece of writing.
Therefore, the most important tip to keep in mind while writing is to be as concise as you can.
This shouldn’t obstruct you from delivering the information correctly, but rather make you deliver it directly and without unnecessary details.
Here’s what our contributor Andrew Tsionas, a Co-founder at Kaizenzo, has to say about writing a business memo:
“Start with a clear goal in mind. What do you want to achieve by writing this memo? What is the purpose of it? If you can answer these questions clearly, you will be able to focus your writing and avoid wasting time on tangents or irrelevant information.”
Furthermore, a business memo isn’t a place to start conversations about many different topics.
You should address a single issue or inform your employees of one change at a time.
Write separate memos for separate issues and keep your memos short.
Tip #4: Maintain a professional tone
A business memo is an internal document. However, you still need to remain professional and polite when writing one.
Always use appropriate language and keep a positive tone throughout your memo.
Also, avoid using technical jargon if you’re writing to people from a different department — they may not understand it.
Here’s what our contributor Andrew Tsionas also has to say:
“Keep your tone professional. This isn’t the time for flowery language or fancy prose — stick to plain English that is easy to understand. If your memo requires additional information or clarification, include a brief note at the end of the document asking for feedback or further explanation.”
Even with members of your team, a level of professionalism should always be upheld. Write your memos with this in mind.
Tip #5: Provide a summary, if the memo is long
By now, you should know that memos should be short. However, that isn’t always applicable. Sometimes memos can go on for more than a page.
In that situation, make sure to provide a summary of the most important points.
Here’s what Logan Mallory, a VP of marketing at Motivosity, has to say about writing a summary in a memo:
“When writing a business memo, it’s best to start with a brief summary to provide readers with a clear understanding of the memo’s purpose and main points. By providing a summary upfront, readers can quickly understand the context of the memo and determine whether they need to read it further.”
You can do this by carefully writing your first paragraph as a summary of the whole memo.
Make sure to include:
- The main point of memo,
- The most important facts behind the decision, and
- A basic overview of the rest of the memo.
If you write a good summary paragraph, it will be much easier to know what’s important right away.
Also, a summary paragraph will be useful if anyone needs to look back on the memo in the future.
Mallory adds that:
“Starting with a summary also helps to focus the memo’s content and ensure that the most important information is highlighted upfront. This can save time and improve the effectiveness of the memo, especially when addressing time-sensitive issues or complex topics.
Ultimately, including a summary at the beginning of a business memo can help ensure that the memo is read and understood by its intended audience, leading to better communication and decision-making within the organization.”
If you notice your memo getting too long, and you can’t condense it, use a summary paragraph to make it easier for the reader.
Tip #6: Pay attention to formatting
Be mindful of formatting your business memos the right way.
One of the easiest ways to make your memos more readable is to use bullet points.
Also, pay attention to the font and font size. You should always use standard fonts. Business memos are not a place to experiment with funky fonts.
Additionally, separate the body of your memo into meaningful paragraphs. This will make it easier to read. Make sure the paragraphs are organized and carry one idea at a time.
💡 Pumble pro tip
If you want to learn more about formatting messages at work, and why it’s important, check out our blog post:
Tip #7: Review before sending
After carefully crafting your memo, there’s one more step you should take — reviewing.
Reviewing your writing is important for any kind of written communication. Read your memo carefully to spot any errors or confusing points. Typos, grammatical errors, or run-on sentences can affect the readability of your memo. These types of mistakes also make you seem unprofessional and sloppy.
If it’s an especially important business memo, consider checking with a trusted coworker before sending it out to others.
Always proofread and review your business memos before sending them.
Conclusion: Keep it short and sweet
In conclusion, business memos are a great way to quickly inform coworkers about any changes or important information.
Writing memos is a skill you will need to practice, but if you follow the aforementioned steps and tips, you will be an expert in no time.
A good business memo will save you time and lead to smooth changes in the workplace. So, don’t hold back from using them.
✉️ What about you? Do you use business memos in your company? What are some of the tips and tricks you may have to share with us when it comes to writing business memos?
Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might include your input in this or future posts. If you found this article helpful, share it with someone who would also benefit from it.