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memorandum (memo)

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memorandum (memo)

William Pfeiffer's "main rule in every memo-writing situation" (Technical Writing: A Practical Approach, 2003). See Examples and Observations, below.

Definition:

A short message or record used for internal communication in a business.

Once the primary form of internal written communication, memorandums (or memos) have declined in use since the introduction of email and other forms of electronic messaging.

Etymology:

From the Latin, "to bring to remembrance"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Abide by this one main rule in every memo-writing situation:
    Be clear, brief, and tactful.
    Because many activities are competing for their time, readers expect information to be related as quickly and clearly as possibly. Yet be sure not to sacrifice tact and sensitivity as you strive to achieve conciseness."
    (William Sanborn Pfeiffer, Technical Writing: A Practical Approach. Prentice Hall, 2003)


  • How to Organize a Memo
    "The following guidelines will help you structure a memo:
    - Use a clear subject line.
    - State your purpose in the first paragraph.
    - Summarize any potential objections.
    - Keep the paragraphs short.
    - Use subheads between paragraph groups.
    - Use bulleted and numbered lists.
    - Request action."
    (Mitchell Ivers, Random House Guide to Good Writing. Ballantine, 1991)


  • Purpose of Memos
    "Memos are used within organizations to report results, instruct employees, announce policies, disseminate information, and delegate responsibilities. Whether sent on paper, as emails, or as attachments to emails, memos provide a record of decisions made and actions taken. They also can play a key role in the management of many organizations because managers use memos to inform and motivate employees. . . .

    "Adequate development of your thoughts is crucial to the clarity of your message, as the following example indicates:
    • ABRUPT Be more careful on the loading dock.

    • DEVELOPED To prevent accidents on the loading dock, follow these procedures:
      1. Check . . .
      2. Load only . . .
      3. Replace . . .
    Although the abrupt version is concise, it is not as clear and specific as the developed version. Do not assume your readers will know what you mean. Readers who are in a hurry may misinterpret a vague memo."
    (Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, Handbook of Technical Writing, 8th ed., Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006)
Pronunciation: mem-eh-RAN-dom
Also Known As: memo
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