The body of a business memo, depending on its subject, can be as short as one or two sentences or as long as several pages.
The longer the memo, the more important it is to select an organizational method that will make the logical sense to your reader.
Keep in mind that a memo ceases to be a memo if it goes on too long. If it requires more than two pages, review the content. You will want to see if you have gotten off-topic and strayed into other subject areas.
If you have two subjects, send two memos. If not, and the memo is still long, you may want to turn it into a report, or a summary of a report, and sent it out attached to a memo that briefly describes what it is about.
A complex memo will include the following four elements:
- Who, What, Where, When, Why? The opening sentence of a business memo should state the objective, or reason for writing.
- The objective is the answer to some or all of the "W" questions a person might reasonably ask after having read the SUBJECT line of a memo.
- Should one sentence not be enough to convey the objective, one or two more sentences can supply the background information necessary for the reader to comprehend the memo's purpose.
- Following the opening, furnish the details; provide, describe, and analyze whatever information or instructions are relevant to the subject at hand.
- The key is to present the details in an uncomplicated manner. The reader should be able to quickly single out specifically what is most important for him or her to know.
- This can often be done in a bulleted list, however, it is important to avoid going overboard. Lists by nature are short on context. They are great for simple messages but, nevertheless, you must supply enough information for the list to make contextual sense.
- More complex messages can be broken into subsections with descriptive headings printed in bold, underlined, or italicized.
- When necessary, follow your summary with a section rounding out the details of your business memo. Include contextual material that specifically supports the information or instructions you are providing.
- Remember that a memo is also a reference tool and may be called upon at any time to provide a written snapshot of a previous event, action, or decision. Avoid being sketchy with the details.
- Include names of people, times of meetings, actions previously taken, decisions made, etc., whenever they bear directly on the subject of your message.
- Closing remarks are an opportunity to restate your observations and analysis, make recommendations, and propose solutions. You've put it in writing; now call for an action.
- If you expect cooperation, be considerate. As in any form of communication, a respectful tone goes a long way toward achieving the results you desire.