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How To Write A Better Memo

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Size doesn’t matter. Such is the case with the memo. Isn’t it amazing how one relatively short document can be such a huge pain? Memos are an overlooked office document. We assume the least amount of words on a sheet of paper makes it the least important. How wrong we are. Memos are as important as a ten-page business letter autographed by Brad Pitt. A poorly written memo can be irritating to readers (who really just want to get back to work) and damaging to the sender (who has no idea how he or she managed to come off sounding so careless). Learning to write concise and effective memos is a skill vital to any business person. The following tips show you how to construct a formidable, readable memo.

Be short, but Ssweet

The most common problem with memos is their length. Regardless of the topic, a memo should never be more than two pages; any longer and the memo begins to ramble on like a report. Unless you’re reprimanding every person in the department, there’s no reason to be aggressive or rude. Keep it short, be polite and get to the point as quickly as possible.

Stay away from the cliché…

Overused phrases like “We’re sorry for the inconvenience…” and “Please don’t hesitate to contact us…” aren’t just cliché, they’re vaguely heartless. Using such trite phrases shows your readers that you simply don’t care enough to phrase it differently or be remotely personal. Try “We’re sorry about this…” or “Give me a call…” instead. Remember, you know these people — act like it!

Make the point immediately

Instead of discussing a problem at length before ending with a vague conclusion as to what you need from the reader, get to the point in the first sentence. Your readers will be more likely to keep reading if they already know what you’re asking of them.

Focus on the people

Avoid using passive verbs, and avoid sentences that rarely include a pronoun. Keep your memo focused on both the reader and yourself by using I, you, we, and our often. It’s far more direct and personal and makes the reader feel as if you’re with them, not preaching at them.

Keep it conversational

Strive to write as you talk, or at least as closely as possible. Use short sentences, familiar words, and contractions. Try reading your memo out loud after writing; does it sound like you? Would you actually say these things? If not, revise until you’ve got the closest approximation. Never distance yourself from the reader with wordy sentences.

Make your needs specific

What do you need from the reader? When and how do you need it? Make sure to close your memo with a summary of the points, but also be as specific as possible about what exactly you want; never leave the reader guessing. If you need a response via email by 2 pm, say just that. Be as polite as possible here; nothing turns off a reader more than being yelled at for a response.

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