Writing Company Memos

Company Memos

These documents are used for conveying information within (internal) a company. This is a very important managerial skill- a good memo eliminates communication issues and helps the receiver to make better decision.

The key is to communicate information in a small amount of space.  A fundamental rule is to incorporate all important information on the first page. |This allows senior executives to spend little time as there are hundreds of communications that pass by them daily. The memo should not take more than ten minutes to read and understand. Based on this memo the executives will make decision on the importance and quality of the report.

MEMO

A heading (e.g. Memorandum or Memo) distinguishes an internal memo from other documents received in an organization. The heading usually appears in bold letters at the top of the page.  Other information that follows include

Date:

Subject: (or Re:)

To:

From:

Word processors like Microsoft Word provide some templates for memo layout and companies usually customize them as per their need.

Project (information) Memos

A typical structure can be as follows:

Introduction (or Background)

Two or three sentences about why your are writing to him or her- your boss may not remember why he or she assigned you this project.  This should not be an editorial (for example, don't include philosophy about how important this issue is to your company--your readers already know that). Rather, the Introduction should inform the reader about specific background info regarding the project you are writing about (for example, who, what, when, where, why).  In most analytical memos, your tone should be unemotional and objective.  

Avoid putting your conclusions or key points in this section--those things go in the next section.

Key Points

This section may also be labeled "Recommendations", "Highlights", "Summary", "Conclusions", or something else with a similar summative tone.  This is where you place your key points for that busy executive that only has three minutes on the subway. 

Key points are usually best communicated by listing them as single sentences or phrases (like we have done here).  Avoid big blocks of narrative text--most busy readers have difficulties navigating large, wordy paragraphs.

Limit your key points to three or less.

In an analytical memo your three key points might consist of:

  • Major strengths or weaknesses that you'd like to highlight.
  • Opportunities for improvement.
  • At least one recommendation for action.

Your key points must all fit on the first page.

Analysis

Data, Method, Assumptions.  Before you engage in any analysis you need to tell your reader some things: 

  • Data.  What data will you be using?  How and where did you obtain it? 
  • Method.  What methods will you be using to analyze your data?
  • Assumptions.  Are there some key assumptions that you will be making during your analysis? 

By informing your reader about these issues, they'll better know what to expect as they read on...

Specific Analysis.  This section may also be labeled "Findings", "Details", "Results", or something else that signifies that this is where you provide the details of your analysis.  This is for the reader that needs more specific information than the summary info presented in the key points listed above.  A useful rule about the analysis section: It should be easy for the reader to clearly link the portions of your Analysis section with each point listed in the Key Points section above. 

Positioning the Analysis Section. If there is room, begin your analysis section on the bottom of page one.  If your analysis is fairly lengthy, consider using subheadings that divide your analysis into logical pieces.  Notice that we have done this here by using bold-face phrases to signal the general content of each paragraph.

Use of Boldface for Headings and Subheadings.  Just like we are doing here, use boldface and different size fonts to highlight section headings and subheadings.  Today's word processing software makes it easy for the writer to use different font sizes and headings to guide the reader's eye through the report.

Paragraph Size.  Avoid big blocks of narrative text.  Large paragraphs are impossible to read quickly.  Better to break up your thoughts into smaller size chunks.  Augment them with boldfaced subheadings--just like we are doing here.

Use of Data.  Most analytical reports require the incorporation of data in order to be convincing.  Data provide a sense of objectivity and encourage "managing by fact".  Data are usually expressed in either tables or graphs.   They can be placed inside the analysis section (increasingly popular as word processors facilitate cut-and-paste) or at the end of the report as attachments.  In either case, all tables and graphs should have a title and numerical reference (e.g., Table 2: Cost Data; Figure III: Sales Projections), and your analysis should make specific reference to each table or graph you have included in your report (e.g., "see Table 2").  Attaching the raw data used in your analysis is usually a good idea.

Limitations.  What are the limitations of your analysis and findings?  For example, the data that you use may be incomplete or suspect--you may need to note that to your reader.  Indeed, a "Limitations" or similar section may be a chance to impose your superior grasp of the context that frames your project.  Your reader will appreciate this.

What Not to Include.  Never incorporate data that is not specifically referenced in your analysis.  Do not end the memo with your conclusions!  They should be stated in list form on Page One.

Credits: This report is a modified version of the document found here http://www.nku.edu/~fordmw/memo.htm

Credits: The attached samples can be found here http://www.nku.edu/~fordmw/Sawyer%20Productivity%20Memo%20w%20Comments.doc

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