Memos are meant to be brief, clarifying, single-subject documents. They may be delivered via email or sent through inter-office mail, but regardless of the form, the memorandum (aka “memo”) will always follow a formal organizational pattern. Typically, memos are used for internal communications and business letters are used for contacts outside of the organization. Still, if you are working closely with outside clients for a length of time, a memo may be more appropriate.

Before breaking down the formatting expectations for a memo, let’s consider some tips that will serve you well as you enter the business arena.

  1. Know Your Audience

    Depending upon your audience, the tone of your memo can vary widely. For example, if you were writing a memo to your direct reports inviting them and their families to the company party to be held at the local zoo, you would want to use a more informal writing style. Using a highly formal writing style for such a memo might achieve quite the opposite and inadvertently suggest that the company party might feel like another day at the office.
  2. Know Your Purpose

    Sometimes, a writer will send off a quick memo with competing topics and the recipient of the memo is left perplexed and wondering, which of these topics is most important? Commit to writing about a single subject/problem/goal in your memo rather than ask the reader to decide which topic is most important.
  3. Get to the Point

    Business memos should be straightforward, accessible, and brief. They tend not to exceed one page, single-spaced, with size 11 or 12 Times New Roman font. Remember, the word “memorandum” is basically defined as succinct and noteworthy. Thus, keeping your message brief and relevant is important. If you send out several memos a day that do not really say much (for example, in a discussion of the office party, you send a memo about the flavor of cake that will be served), your colleagues will likely not bother to read your memos in the future.

How to Format the Business Memo

  • Do not include addresses (return or mailing) as memos are meant for internal communication.
  • No need for the opening salutation, e.g. Dear Dr. Cooper, or a closing phrase, e.g. Best or Sincerely.
  • At the top of the page, note “Memo.”
  • When crafting an email memo or hard copy for intra-office mail, include a concise and specific topic in the subject line.
  • You can either format the memo yourself (following our sample memo) or use one of Microsoft Office’s templates.

View a Sample