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Memos: General Introduction

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What is a memo?

Memos are brief printed documents traditionally used for routine, day-to-day communication within organizations. According to Dr. Johnson-Sheehan,  “Memos are written to people inside [a] company or organization. They are used to convey decisions, meeting agendas, policies, internal reports, and short proposals” (Technical Communication Today, pp. 84). In alternative settings, memos are used to demonstrate targeted responses to specific topics/questions of interest.

How are memos written?

Learning to write memos can be challenging because they are one of many genres of correspondence often composed by professional writers. The format and layout of business documents vary on macro and micro perspectives -- from country to country and organization to organization. In addition, many organizations develop their own variations of standard styles, adapting documents to the types of messages they send and the audiences they are communicating with.

Nevertheless, the memo-writing genre holds standard conventions that can guide your writing. Developing an acute sense of audience and purpose awareness, which parts to include, and general formatting guidelines will aid your composition of a successful memo. Reading sample memos can also help clarify the rules of the genre.