How to Write a Memo

A CIO article relates a story about a young engineer on his way up the ranks in corporate America. One day his boss told him that he'd need to improve his business memo writing skills or else jeopardize his continuing advancement. Since communication skills are often cited as key to one's ability to get things done, it's not much of surprise that memo writing plays a big role. And it's no surprise that an IT worker had problems communicating to his memo's audience i.e. business-minded senior management and executives.

Keeping the above in mind, here are the top 5 items that CIO magazine suggests we all remember when deciding how to write a memo:

  1. Identify the reader so you can determine the level of detail required.
  2. What is the one key piece of information you want your reader to remember?
  3. Use short paragraphs and consider that an e-mail may be printed out.
  4. Keep things to the point, avoid jargon.
  5. Ask someone to read your memo.

Although I don't write too many memos, I do put together project status reports which include a summary for those who don't have the time or interest to read the details. If I had to pick the one area where I could improve it would be with bullet 4. I think it's the IT in me that forces me to write and explain more than is necessary “just in case someone is interested.” I'm going to have to work on that.

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