This is a general guide on how to write a memo (aka “memorandum” if you wanna be technical) that:
- …gets read.
- …has a clear purpose.
- …makes everyone’s life easier.
- …conveys your message in the least amount of time possible.
Let’s get started!
What is a memo?
A memo is a note to a group of people telling them to do something, or informing them of a new policy.
Examples of reasons to send out a memo could be:
- An IT guy sending a reminder that all passwords need to be updated every 60 days.
- An Office Manager reminding people to put all dishes in the sink by the end of the day.
- A CEO explaining a new bonus policy.
- A VP telling their division they’re falling behind for the year and need to meet certain numbers.
A memo is usually sent as an email, and can replace the need to have an entire meeting about a small subject which could be explained over a memo.
Memos have a tendency to become looonngg and booriingg….and a long & boring memo can easily waste a lot of time, and start causing people to HATE getting (and reading) future memos. This is bad!
Fortunately, there’s a few super-easy tips we can follow that will make our memo easy to follow, quick, and possibly fun!
Before writing your memo, just remember these 5 things:
Memo Tip #1: Make sure you have a crazily-easy-to-understand request BEFORE writing your memo.
A lot of memos are long, rambling, and by the end you don’t even know what the heck it’s about.
Ask yourself these questions first:
- “Does this even NEED to be a memo?”
- “This will take up people’s time….is this something that can wait?”
- “If I got this memo in my inbox, would I just roll my eyes?”
- “If I could get people to take ONE action after reading this memo, what would it be?”
If you cannot answer any of those questions, perhaps you need to re-think if you should send out this memo.
Needless memos take up time, cause needless frustration, and pile more work onto already-busy people. So let’s make sure the memo is 100% necessary before sending it out!
Memo Tip #2: Get the “essential info” out of the way, in the shortest space possible.
Sometimes the header of a memo will get comically long, and make it very difficult to read.
The header is often not very important, so you’ll want to minimize the amount of space the header takes up, such as:
From: Neville Medhora
To: Entire sales team.
Reason: Email me back your quota progress by 5pm today.
Remember that a lot of people open their messages and emails on different devices such as tablets and phones, and if your header is too long, they have to scroll a significant amount to see the real meat of the memo.
Memo Tip #3: Your memo should convey all the information in the smallest amount of text possible.
If you followed Memo Tip #1, then you know the exact action you want taken by the readers of your memo. Get to this action part fast as possible!
There’s no need to drag out the memo, add unnecessary commentary, or use large words to appear smart. Just get straight to the point.
If you’re feeling smart-alecky or adventurous, feel free to use an image, like this!
Who says well-crafted memos can’t be fun? :-)
Memo Tip #4: Repeat and bold the action people should take at the end (in one sentence).
Make sure you re-iterate exactly what you need from people at the end of the memo:
WHAT I NEED FROM EVERYONE:
Email me your favorite type of cake by 5pm today!
Simply stating what you need from people at the end will dramatically increase how many people take the action.
Memo Tip #5: If action doesn’t need to be taken, then tell them.
Let’s save a massive amount of time for everyone, if something needs to no action, just say it!
At the end of your memo, just write at the end:
No action required.
Those three words let everyone know there’s nothing further they have to do.
Example of a great memo :-)
Characteristics of a great memo:
- Very first section reminds them what action to take.
- Main message is super short and to-the-point.
- Very last section re-reminds them what action to take.
Example of a bad memo :-(
Characteristics of a bad memo:
- Super long header.
- Speaks in very “corporate-y tone” which bores people.
- Suuupppeerrr long body of text that’s hard to read.
- Lots of unnecessary details.
- Main point of memo is not immediately obvious.
- Last section does not re-state the action people need to take.
The Good Memo Checklist:
A quick checklist to run through before sending a memo.
By following this quick checklist, you can turn a Long & Boring Memo into a Quick & Effective Memo!
So before sending a memo, just remember to follow these quick guidelines:
- Make sure the action you’re requesting is worthy of an entire memo.
- Give a one-sentence explanation of the memo in the header. Shorter = Better.
- Get to the point right away. Re-read your memo and eliminate needless chatter.
- The last part of the memo should say exactly what action you want people to take.
Remember my friend…..
P.S. If this article cumulatively prevents 100,000 bad memos per year, we can save the world-wide workforce over 166,666 wasted hours!
Each memo gets sent to 20 people.
Each memo wastes 5 minutes of time per person.
[100,000 memos] x [20 people] x [5 minutes] = 10,000,000 minutes = 166,666 hours saved.
P.P.S. Here’s a video version of this article you can send a colleague explaining how to write a great memo:
P.P.P.S. Send this article link to colleagues and friends: