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Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Semester 2 Reading Lessons...



Reading: Memos



Lesson Objectives: To understand how memos are structured.


Adapted from:


Memos: Effective communication within organizations is essential to optimal functioning. If you can write informative and brief memos, you have an edge. This section shows how to get that edge.

You will usually have no difficulty coming up with the content of a good memo: You won't want to write one until you feel some strong need to get something done. You might want to remind your colleagues or employees of the correct procedures to do something. Writing a memo may get the job done.


Creating the Content of Memos: Be brief. Your co-workers are probably working nearly as hard as you are. They don't have the time to read long, windy memos.

You may find it helpful to sit and think about the main point you want to make. Some people jot a few notes. Ask yourself: What is my reason for writing this? What do I need to say so my reader understands me? Once you've got a clear idea of the message you want to send, express it in the fewest words, and think about how to organize it for the greatest effect.


Organizing Your Memo: If you glance at the figure showing a memo (figure 1, below), it will be easier to understand these ideas about how to organize a memo. To make it easy for your reader to quickly decide if the memo is important, or even whether to read it, organize it to immediately tell the reader:


  • to whom the memo is directed,
  • who sent it,
  • when it was sent,
  • and what it is about.


Figure 1: Example of a Memo


TO: Staff

FROM: Parking Authority Office

DATE: August 27, 2002


Parking permit stickers for the new academic year can be purchased from 8:30-4:30 at the Parking
Authority Office in ME100B.

Stickers cost $160.00 and can be purchased by cheque, cash or through four monthly payroll
deductions. We cannot accept credit cards.

On September 4, Municipal Parking Authority Officers will begin ticketing all cars without the 2002-2003 parking permit stickers.

Look at figure 1 to see the four typical entries in the heading of a memo: the To, From, Date and Subject lines. There is no one standard for the organization of a memo, but this order is common. You want to quickly tell your audience the most important information in the memo. You start to do this even in the heading to the memo: In the subject line, summarize your main point.

Memos typically consist of several very brief paragraphs, moving from a general statement of the main point to the details necessary to act. Often a paragraph is a single sentence. The paragraphs are arranged from the most important to the least important. Write memos just long enough to tell your readers the relevant information. Memos should be brief. Don't deal with more than one topic in one memo. If you start to feel that there's a lot more to say, you probably need to write a report.


Writing Memos with Effective Appearance: Even the appearance of the memo is designed to speed the reader along. Readers find the information quickly and easily when writers use block style, aligning all entries on the left margin. Use the tab or indent feature of your word processor to align all the particular details (i.e., the name of the recipient, sender, date and the text of the subject line) just to the right of the longest line, the subject line. You should also bold and underline to draw attention to the subject line. Make the most important information really stand out.


Activity: Analyzing a Memo: Read the two memos (figures 1 and 2). Form a group of four, discuss the questions, and record the group's answer to each question. Be prepared to discuss your answers.


  • Which memo fails to show good unity? Quote the material that is off topic..

  • Which memo heading is organized better? Why is it better?

  • Which memo body is better organized? What is better about it?

  • The writer of one of the memos forgot an important point about the appearance of memos. How should the appearance of the memo be improved so readers more quickly get the point?

Purposes of a Memo: A memo can be a handwritten one-liner or a document of two or three typewritten pages. Memos are sometimes put on a notice board for everyone to see, but usually they are distributed by internal mail. A memo can be used for several purposes:

  • to give information about something within a company
  • to request information about something
  • to give instructions
  • to deliver reprimands (rather rare)





To:  All kitchen personnel
From:  The Facility Manager
Date:  6 February
Subject:  Cleaning contract

In order to make better use of out workforce we have decided that all cleaning activities will be contracted out to Immac Ltd. Because of this measure we will be able use manpower more effectively and lower the cost of production.

The contract with Immac Ltd will not affect employees' job security. All personnel presently involved in cleaning activities will get new duties.

We have contacted union representatives and they have reacted positively and indicated that they are willing to co-operate. We will inform the employees involved as soon as possible about their new duties. If any employee has any questions about the change that is going to take place, he should contact the union representative.

K. Count

Facility Manager


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