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Writing and Sending a Memo

Before emails demanded the attention of everyone, business professionals communicated internally through a medium called the interoffice memorandum, often referred to as “the memo”. People typed and printed it, signed or initialed it, and finally distributed it through interoffice mail to professionals who read it to make decisions, take actions, or receive important information. Nowadays, we’ve replaced memos with rampant emails. We’ve pushed emails too far, expecting them to communicate long, complex, and important messages to everyone or anyone. Our email inboxes are packed, and those important messages are not often being read. It’s time we took the pressure off emails. If you want people to read your important information or ideas, you simply need to revive the memo. Here are useful considerations.

  • RECOGNIZE THE BEST USES OF EMAIL: Emails are best for fast, temporary communications that people can read quickly, act on, and delete. They are perfect for succinct requests and responses, speedy updates, short reminders or check-ins, time-sensitive announcements, and similarly short-lived messages. Emails are most fitting for briefly introducing attachments, such as memos.
  • USE A MEMO WHEN YOU’RE WRITING A MESSAGE BUILT TO LAST: If your communication is a detailed proposal or a significant report, or a serious recommendation, meeting minutes, technical explanation, new policy, or something that the readers will consult more than once, make it a memo. As a memo, your readers will be able to save the document, read it, and find it when they need it again.
  • USE A MEMO WHEN FORMATTING MATTERS: If the document contains bullet points, columns, a graph, tables, bold heading, or even a good balance of white space, a memo will be more useful because it will help you retain that formatting. To guarantee the formatting of your document, save the memo as a PDF. If your audience reads their emails on their phones, an attachment may be the only way to preserve the formatting of the document as you intend.
  • USE A MEMO IF PEOPLE WILL PRINT YOUR DOCUMENT: Rather than using an email, use a memo if people will print your document. If your message belongs on a bulletin board, like for example, in an employee break room, write a memo. Also, if people will discuss your ideas at a meeting, use a memo to make it easier for them to print the document as you intend.
  • CHOOSE A MEMO TO COMMUNICATE FORMALLY: Memos provide a place at the top of the message where you can insert the name of your company, your logo, and the professional titles of the senders and receivers. These inclusions make the message appear formal. Also, a well-formatted document conveys significance.
  • USE A MEMO WHEN YOU WORRY THAT YOUR MESSAGE IS TOO LONG: Impossibly long emails often result when you try to incorporate important, lasting information in them, but memos work best when people will return to your message for information. For example, if you’re communicating the details of a four-stage construction project, use a memo. To convey the pros and cons of a major purchasing decision, present your research in a memo. Then, attach your memo to an email that gives your readers a brief summary of the content of the memo. For some readers, this summary will be enough. Those who need the information will read and save the memo.
  • USE A MEMO WHEN COMMUNICATING COMPLEX INFORMATION: A letter is a traditional format for external correspondence, especially to people you serve, such as customers, clients, or patients. But you can choose to use a memo when writing to vendors, colleagues, clients, consultants, professional peers, and others who collaborate with you to get results.
  • SENDING A MEMO: To send a memo, simply attach it to a brief email, or send a printed copy through interoffice mail if that approach makes sense. Though some think of memos as old-fashioned, memos can help your messages come across as professional, relevant, and of importance.

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