Unit 21: Memos

Learning Objective

1. Identify the parts of effective traditional documents such as memos.

A memo communicates policies, procedures, short reports, or related official business within an organization. It assumes a one to all perspective, broadcasting a message to a group audience, rather than to individuals such as what email or letters often do. Memos are objective in tone and avoid all personal bias or subjective preference, especially because they may have legal standing when reflecting policies or procedures. Accuracy is therefore paramount in memos.


Before exploring memos in more detail, let’s review the advantages, disadvantages, and occasions for using memos given earlier in Table 21.1 on channel selection.

Table 21.1 Excerpt: Memo Pros, Cons, and Proper Use

Channel Advantages Disadvantages Expectations Appropriate Use
  • Provides a written record of group decisions, announcements, policies, and procedures within an organization
  • Can also be a format for delivering short reports (e.g., conference report) and recording negotiating terms in agreements between organizations (e.g., memo of understanding)
  • Can be posted on a physical bulletin board and/or emailed
  • Requires a good archiving system to make memos easily accessible for those (especially new employees) needing to review a record of company policies, procedures, etc.
  • Use template with company letterhead
  • Follow the same conventions as email, except omit the opening and closing salutations and e-signature
  • For a written record for decisions, announcements, policies, procedures, and short reports shared within an organization
  • Post a printed version on an office bulletin board and email to all involved

Memo Purpose

A memo’s purpose is often to inform, but it occasionally includes an element of persuasion or call to action. All organizations have informal and formal communication networks. The unofficial, informal communication network within an organization, the “grapevine,” is often a channel for rumour, gossip, and innuendo. On the grapevine, one person may hear that someone else is going to be laid off and start passing the news around. Rumours often distort the truth more and more the further along they are passed. Before you know it, the word is that the company is shutting down your entire department.

One effective way to address informal, unofficial speculation is to spell out clearly for all employees what is going on with a particular issue. If budget cuts are a concern, then it may be wise to send a memo explaining the imminent changes. If a company wants employees to take action, they may also issue a memorandum. For example, a company memo may announce a new program incentivizing employees to use public transit or other alternatives to driving to work and filling up the parking lot with their single-occupant vehicles. In this way, memos often represent the business or organization’s interests. They may also include statements that align business and employee interest, and underscore common ground and benefit (Business Communication for Success, 2015).

Return to the Memo Topics menu

Memo Format

A memo often has a letterhead with “MEMO” and the company name and logo at the top of the page. Below this are the header fields identifying the recipient, author, date, and subject much like you would see in an email. In fact, email’s header fields are based on those traditionally found in memos, so the same principles for what to include here, such as how to title the document in the subject line, are true of emails (see unit 17).

Unlike emails, memos omit the opening salutation but, from there, are similar in their three-part message organization with an opening, body, and closing. Always direct-approach, the memo message opening states the main point, the body supports this with details, and the closing gives action information or a summary.

For more on memos, see the following resources:

Key Takeaway

Memos are used within an office for providing information on policies, procedures, and short reports.



1. Review the sample memo posted on blackboard.


Perkins, C., & Brizee, A. (2018, March 23). Memos: Audience and Purpose. Purdue OWL. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/590/1/

wikiHow. (2018, May 14). How to write a memo. Retrieved from https://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Memo


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