Although the concept of “memo” may seem old-fashioned, essentially every idea that is shared in this set of tips ALSO applies to emails that serve the purpose of a memo. The main idea is that we need our communication to be clear and professional. Use these guidelines for yourself but also as a prompt for discussion in an upcoming staff meeting.
Writing a bad memo just gets the chaos ball rolling…so you might as well not even get that started.
Here are 10 Keys to Keep Chaos at Bay by Writing Good Memos.
- Before you ever write a memo, ask yourself whether a memo is the best form of communication for your ideas. Other options include an email, instant messaging, the telephone, video-conferencing, or a face-to-face meeting. Choose “memo” if that’s the means that will serve the purpose you intend.
- Before you write a memo, consider exactly what your purpose is. One of the best ideas I ever learned was to ask (and answer) these three questions (from Bill Jensen’s book, Simplicity Survival Handbook):
- What do I want the person(s) to KNOW?
- What do I want the person(s) to FEEL?
- What do I want the person(s) to DO?
- Using these three questions gives you a clear and succinct structure for determining what needs to be in your memo.
- Construct your memo and then let it “sit.” Then go back and do whatever revising is needed. The more important the memo’s message, the longer it needs to “sit” so that the revisions you make strengthen the communication.
- Spell check your memo. Revising the content is part of what you need to do, but basic editing is required, as well. A minor typo can end up causing chaos you never intended.
- Read and reread your memo before you send it off. If it addresses a particularly sensitive topic, have someone else read it, too. This person should be a trusted person who will tell you that something doesn’t make sense.
- Avoid being known as the memo queen/king. Limit memos to significant information on an infrequent basis.
- Generally, if it’s more than one page (or possibly two pages), it’s not a memo. It has now become a letter, a report, an addition to the policy manual, etc. Call it what it is.
- To get a faster response to your memo, add a check-off line at the bottom so that the memo can just be returned to you (via mail or fax). For example, if your memo is to determine the recipients’ thoughts regarding the question, “Should we schedule our next sales conference in San Francisco?” then give them the following “check-off” line:
__ I’d like to discuss one or more options with you.
Give a deadline for the response.
- Send your memo to the correct person(s) and keep a copy for yourself. Just like with email, don’t cc people who don’t need the information.
- Memos are for business communication. They aren’t holiday greeting cards. Stick to professional communication via memorandum.
Chaos can be kept at bay with a well-designed memo. And, sadly, chaos can also be created by poorly conceptualized memo. Be sure you are clear on what your message is, what you are requesting, what action you want, etc. Look forward to hearing, “Wow! Great memo! Thanks!”
For a book with some great tips, take a look at the Barron’s Business Success Series book: Writing Effective Letters, Memos, and Email. It’s only $8.95 and worth it for the ideas you can gain.
Regardless of the professional role you may be in (or to which you may aspire), you can deliberately design your professional presence. That’s the first thing you need to know. It is about paying conscious attention to a multitude of factors over which you have total control.
With the Get a Plan! Guide® to Deliberately Designing Your Professional Presence, you’ll discover reasons and specifics about what to do so that you come across to others in a professional manner. You want to be taken seriously, whatever your profession is.