Business Memos

Informational Memos

An informational memo is an in-house communication addressed to one or more individuals. The objective is to convey one or more pieces of information that relate specifically to the topic in the subject line. Besides the actual information, the scope of a memo must provide a reason for why the information contained in it is relevant to the reader.

Identify Your Reader

Informational memos are often, though not always, intended for multiple readers. Regardless of whether you have one, several, or many, you know who they are because they work with you.

In most cases they are people from within your organization that share a need for the same information. On occasion, however, they will be from outside your organization and have strong internal ties, a subcontractor for instance, whose involvement in a joint project requires that you regularly communicate.

The degree, or closeness of your working relationship, combined with the nature of the information you are giving, will determine the level of formality that you should use in your heading.

Fill in the heading of your memo. Decide what level of formality you are going to use and fill in the TO field. While you are at it fill in the FROM and DATE fields. The SUBJECT field can be left alone for now.

Establish Your Objective

The objective of an informational memo is to reveal new or refresh old information in a manner that benefits or brings the reader up to date. It should be presented in a crisp and clear manner within a contextual framework that is easy to understand.

For an informational memo to be most effective, present the most important items in the opening paragraphs. People are busy; respect their time. Your readers may only have time to scan the highlights and headlines of your memo, let alone get to the end, but they will read your first paragraph.

Establish your objective. Below the heading, make a detailed list of the information you are providing. Be sure to think about how it is relevant to the reader. Answer the "W" questions. Fragments are O.K. Eventually this list will become part of your opening.

On completion your objective will be clearly outlined. Later, while drafting your memo, this list will be turned into complete sentences and a paragraph.

Determine Your Scope

The scope of an informational memo should stick closely to the subject line of the heading, making its objective clearly comprehensible to its readers while alerting them to the relevance of the information it is delivering.

The subject line should define the specific topic that your information relates to and the opening paragraph should remove any question from the reader's mind regarding the built in who, what, where, when and why's of that topic.

If required, a summary and discussion following the opening should flesh out the need-to-know details and close any "so what" doors that may have been left open. Think of it this way: the "ignore this memo" room is right through those "so what" doors. Shut them.

Determine the scope of your memo. First, write down a clear description of your topic in the subject line. Be specific. Next, review your list of answers to the "W" questions. Beef it up with new lines containing need-to-know information that helps your reader understand the memo's relevance.

Again, sentence fragments are fine. On completion you will have determined your scope. Later, while drafting your memo this list will be turned into complete sentences and paragraphs.

Organize Your Letter

Before drafting an informational memo, pick out an organizational method that best suits the logical or sequential order in which you would like the details to appear.

A simple outline will help organize your thoughts. In the editing boxes of Steps 2 and 3 you have already begun this task by creating lists that helped you establish your objective and determine your scope. Refer back to them. Together they include much of the content that will become the body of your memo.

Begin to organize your memo. Review the work you did and organize your lists with an eye toward building a framework in which your reader will clearly understand the relevance of your information.

If your outline seems disorganized, you probably have something out of order. Feel free to move things around. On completion you will have a simple outline that you can use as a reference guide when you begin drafting your memo.

Draft Your Memo

The best way to draft an informational memo is to write quickly; you should work from an outline. You have already organized yourself with a sequentially ordered list, consequently you already have an outline. This list is all you need. Refer back to it and turn each fragment into a full and complete sentence expressing a single thought or idea.

Your voice needs to be natural and strong, clear and cohesive, as if you were speaking to someone in person. Write quickly and concentrate on communicating your objective. When you are through, read the draft out loud. Listen as if you were the reader. Does the scope of your memo contain everything on your organizational list? Does it include everything the reader needs to know?

Keep in mind that you are writing a rough draft. For the moment you can ignore spelling and grammar, sentence and paragraph structure. Those are technical details that will be ironed out when you review and revise your work.

Begin to draft your memo. Start with the point that you feel the strongest or most confident about and then do the others. Remember to do this quickly. On completion you will have a rough draft that can be saved and edited.

Close Your Memo

An informational memo should close as crisply as it opens. Your last paragraph is a final opportunity to draw conclusions or make recommendations and it should clearly indicate that you mean business; however, it should also be treated as a good will building opportunity.

A personable and helpful tone is very much in order. Whenever you can, whenever it is appropriate, offer to be of further assistance. This seemingly small thing is actually anything but small; it reminds your readers that you are on their side, that you are a team player.

Close your memo. Add a final remark at the end of your draft and remember; this is an administrative tool used to convey important information. Be as personable as the relationship with your reader allows while respecting the hierarchical strata within your company. Upon completion you will have a finished draft that you can review and revise.

Review and Revise Memo

Reviewing and revising your draft is the last step in writing an informational memo. It is a final inspection time. Now is when you hone your memo's textual content, checking to see that your objective is clearly stated and that your scope is sufficiently inclusive for the reader to understand your directive.

Look for obvious errors. Check for misspelled words, poor sentence structure, and grammar mistakes. Make sure that you have been direct and to the point. Use a strong active voice.

Keep in mind the overall cohesiveness of your memo. Look for accuracy, clarity, and a sense of completeness. Ask yourself if the transitions between paragraphs are working and if your point of view, tone, and style are consistent throughout the text.

Examine your word choices carefully. Ambiguous words lead to confusion. Jargon and abstract terms may not be understood at all and affectations, cliches, and trite language tend to diminish the substance of your message.

Review and revise your memo. On completion you will have a fully formed informational memo You should give yourself a break and then review it once again.

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Introduction