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50 years of success - Established 1974

50 Years of Success
Established in 1974

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What is a memo?


A little bit of background into the origins of the word memo will help clarify what their purpose is – so we’ll start there. Memorandum comes from the Latin noun memorandum and has the same root as memorare, which sounds very much like another word I can think of – any ideas yet? Not surprisingly, memorare translates as to recount, to mention or call to mind and, I’m sure you’ve realised by now that it gave us the word memory. So, a memo can be considered as something that should be used to remind people of something. And, that is exactly what it does.

Memos in the office

What is the role of a memo within the office? Well, first it’s important to remember that memos are usually meant for use only within the office and are sent through the internal mail system of the company. Anything that needs sending externally, to clients or suppliers etc, should be written in the more formal format of a letter. Secondly, they should be used when the information needs to be put in writing, not as a way to avoid speaking with people face-to-face. And lastly, they should be clear and brief. If what needs to be communicated is long and complex another format, such as a report, may be more appropriate. Memos are often used to:

instruct – about fire or health and safety procedures, new equipment and so on

remind – when staff need to remember an important time or date, such as a monthly meeting

highlight – informing others of changes in staff roles, such as promotion or dismissal

How do you set out a memo?

A memo can be set out in a number of ways, but most companies have a standard format that they use and a typical example is given below:

Memorandum or Memo


– if you are sending this to more than one person, list all their names here.


– your name.


– always include the date as a written record of when the memo was sent.


– each memo should deal with only one subject and it is helpful to highlight it with bold or underlining.

The body of the message goes in this space. The message should be brief but clear and care should be taken to make sure the grammar and spelling are correct. Remember to keep the language appropriate for the recipients – if the message is to colleagues on an equal footing, then colloquial language is okay. If you are addressing your superiors make sure you are polite and respectful. And if you need to issue a memo to your subordinates, make it clear what it is require.

End the memo with your initials

Stick to these basic principles and you’ll soon be churning out memos like a professional! However, if you want to know more about improving other aspects of your writing to professional level, why not request information on our Comprehensive Business Writing or Advanced Business English courses? With a home-study format, expert feedback and generous completion times, you’ll be able to improve your writing without disrupting your day-to-day routine.